September 19, 2011 – BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Boeing scrambled on Monday to iron out contract problems that forced it to postpone delivery of a 747 jumbo jet for the first time in its 40-year history, driving down its shares.
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The U.S. planemaker was due to deliver the first freighter version of its significantly revamped 747-8 to Luxembourg-based freight carrier Cargolux on Monday.
But in an embarrassing setback, it was forced to scratch a lavish three-day celebration including a surprise musical act after receiving a letter from the European carrier on Friday.
Boeing shares were down $2.22, or 3.40 percent, at $63.16 on the New York Stock Exchange in morning trade.
Both sides blamed "contract issues" for the delay, a key disclosure after the program was beset by technical problems that pushed it back around two years. A performance problem could have cast greater doubt over subsequent deliveries.
"We had a party planned for today," Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told a conference in Barcelona.
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"We have some contract issues which need to be resolved and we are working on that," he told the ISTAT aircraft finance conference.
Cargolux, which has ordered 13 of the jets worth $319 million each at today's list prices, threatened to look for other aircraft if the dispute could not be resolved.
Aircraft analyst Scott Hamilton said the Cargolux delivery had become embroiled in a wider dispute between Qatar Airways and Boeing over late-delivery penalties for the 787 Dreamliner, its latest carbon-composite passenger jet.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker regards the penalty for delayed 747-8 deliveries as a benchmark for other future penalties, including the future 787 Dreamliner, he said.
Boeing plans another lavish ceremony for the first delivery of the revolutionary lightweight 787 passenger plane to Japanese customer All Nippon Airways <9202.T> on September 26-28.
The Cargolux delivery was due to be followed by other deliveries to airlines or freight carriers culminating in a 467-seat passenger version later in the year.
Boeing plans to deliver a combined total of 25-30 747-8 and 787 aircraft this year, a majority of which would be 747-8s.
(Reporting By Tim Hepher, Kyle Peterson)