Boeing 747 Breaks Out of Its Sales Slump

By Rich

Boeing 747 sales lift off. Image source:Boeing.

2015 has not been a good year for sales of Boeing's 747 jumbo jet.

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Prior to this week, Boeing had recorded orders for just four Boeing 747 aircraft from its customers. Sad to say, all four of those new orders were balanced out by cancellations of older orders for the plane, leaving Boeing with precisely zero net new orders for one of its marquee aircraft -- until now.

On Thursday, Boeing confirmed that "unidentified customer(s)" have placed orders for two new 747 jumbo jets. Boeing didn't say who bought them, just that the orders are in the book now -- and that they're "firm."

Additionally, Boeing recorded a pair of new 737 single-aisle plane orders, also from an unidentified customer(s) -- maybe the same buyer, maybe not. In any case, that news is a bit less interesting than it sounds, because Boeing noted that it also suffered a pair of 737 "cancellations."

Now, experience has taught us that when equal numbers of 737 orders and cancellations show up simultaneously in a Boeing report, that usually means that someone who had previously ordered 737 NG aircraft has upgraded their request for Boeing to deliver 737 MAX aircraft instead. So until proven otherwise, that's what we're going to assume happened here as well.

The order bookAs of mid-November, Boeing's order book now looks like this:

  • 416 "gross" orders for single-aisle 737s
  • 79 Dreamliner 787s
  • 56 widebody 777s
  • 48 Boeing 767s
  • and now six new 747s

In total, that's 605 gross plane orders for Boeing. Minus 79 cancellations, Boeing's net order tally for the year is now 526 planes.

In other newsThat right there is already pretty good news for Boeing. For the fifth straight week, Boeing has recorded positive growth in plane orders. For five weeks in a row, it's closed the gap between itself and Airbus in total order growth for 2015. Mind you, Airbus still leads Boeing by a sizable margin at last report -- 850 net orders to Boeing's 526 -- but at least the lead is narrowing. And it could contract even further.

Not showing up on Boeing's order book this week, but reported in company press releases, Boeing has confirmed that unidentified customersin Asia and the Middle East have placed orders for four new BBJ MAX 8 aircraft, the business jet configuration of Boeing's popular 737 MAX 8.

Finally, in additional Boeing 747-related news, the company says it has deliveredjust two Boeing 747-8 to Russian customer AirBridgeCargo (ABC) Airlines, part of the Volga-Dnepr group. (So for better or worse, the economic sanctions against Russia aren't doing much to slow Boeing's business down.) At a list price north of $379 million each, these planes are the second most expensive in Boeing's lineup. Each 747 sold brings in more revenue than three of Boeing's popular 737 MAX 8s, combined. (They're more expensive than any plane in Airbus' lineup, too, barring only the megamassive A380-800 -- which isn't currently offered in a freighter version.)

Which is not to say that ABC would even consider buying an Airbus. To the contrary, with these 747s now in inventory, ABC's all-Boeing fleetnow boasts no fewer than 15 747s -- eight 747-8s, five 747-400s, and a brace of 747-400s. And according to Boeing, its deal with ABC "calls for [even] more 747-8 Freighters"to be delivered in the future.

How many more, and what will they all mean for Boeing's bottom line? Stay tuned.

Airbus' A380 is a big plane. Possibly even too big for Russia. Image source: Airbus.

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Rich Smithdoes not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him onMotley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handleTMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 275 out of more than 75,000 rated members.The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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