Boeing Sets Jet Delivery Record -- Update

By Doug Cameron Features Dow Jones Newswires

Boeing Co. said it delivered a record 763 jetliners in 2017 and secured net orders for 912 planes, as surging airline traffic continues to fuel a multiyear boom for the airline and aerospace industries.

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The increased orders and deliveries highlight Boeing's ability to boost production while introducing new aircraft models, trends that have improved the aerospace giant's cash flow and profits and sent its stock to new highs.

Boeing's share price has almost doubled over the past year, and the stock rose after the order tally was released Tuesday. Shares were recently up 2.1% at $316.70, the second best performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Boeing and rival Airbus SE have backlogs stretching ahead for six or seven years, and investors are increasingly focused on deliveries and cash flow rather than new plane deals, analysts said.

Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president for marketing, said rising passenger and cargo traffic and the availability of finance point to rising demand for new jets.

Boeing's 763 deliveries last year compare with 748 in 2016 and 762 in 2015. Boeing is set to boost monthly production of its best-selling 737 jet by five planes to 52 this year and then by another five in 2019. The plane is sold out through 2022. It is also raising monthly output of the 787 Dreamliner to 14 from 12 next year.

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While low-cost airlines have booked huge orders in recent years, Mr. Tinseth said Boeing's order book reflected deals from 71 customers last year, with some 40% of its backlog coming from the fast-growing Asian market.

"We're starting to see our backlog truly reflect where the long-term growth is," he said.

While there have been some high-profile airline bankruptcies over the past year, including Air Berlin PLC and Monarch Airlines, Boeing said the level of cancellations and requests by airlines to defer deliveries was as low as ever.

Boeing has been pressuring suppliers for better terms, moving some production tasks in house and boosting automation to save money. Boeing has increased production by about a third since 2010 while also cutting the workforce at its commercial aircraft unit by around a third.

"They are making progress on every imaginable front," said Carter Copeland, an analyst at Melius Research LLC, who this week raised his price target for Boeing shares to $430 and suggested the impact of tax reform and Boeing's efficiency drive could push the stock to $500.

The Chicago-based company delivered 529 single-aisle 737 jets -- including 74 of the new Max model -- 136 Dreamliners and 74 of the 777 planes, The remainder were 14 Boeing 747 jumbo jets and 10 freighter versions of the 767. The company's new 777X model is due to arrive in 2020.

Airbus is due to release its 2017 order numbers next week. The European plane maker booked 333 net orders through November 30. It has since announced deals for 705 additional planes, putting the company on a path to top Boeing's net order gains in 2017 depending which of those and other deals made it into the order book before year-end.

Robert Wall contributed to this article.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 09, 2018 13:53 ET (18:53 GMT)