Boeing Co reported a 12 percent jump in profit on Wednesday, handily beating estimates as commercial aircraft production and margins soared, and raised its full-year forecast, sending its shares up nearly 6 percent.
The company also said it will speed up production of its new, high-tech plane, the 787 Dreamliner, a long-awaited move that comes after a series of problems.
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The strong results from the commercial airplane business, which pushed out more planes at higher profit margins, compensated for weakness in the defense unit, where revenue rose just 3 percent and margins contracted.
The gains in commercial aircraft showed that Boeing was not only on target to deliver a record number of jetliners this year, but was producing them efficiently.
"Consistently strong operating performance is driving higher earnings, revenue and cash flow," Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney said in a statement.
The commercial aircraft operating margin rose to 11.6 percent in the latest quarter from 9.5 percent a year ago. But the gain begged the question of "whether this is a 'one off', or whether such levels can be sustained," analyst Robert Stallard at RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note.
Margins will come under pressure as 787 output increases because the jet's production process is less mature and less efficient.
"Clearly the 787 will be more detrimental for margins," said Ken Herbert, analyst at Canaccord Genuity Inc.
PROFIT, MARGINS JUMP
Net income rose to $1.51 a share from $1.35 a year ago as revenue increased 11 percent to $22.13 billion, Boeing said. The gain came largely from a 14 percent surge in deliveries to 170 aircraft in the quarter.
Core earnings, which exclude some pension and post-retirement costs, jumped 16 percent to $1.80 a share from
The core earnings and revenue results topped analysts' expectations of $1.55 a share and revenue of $21.68 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Boeing raised its full-year core earnings forecast to between $6.50 and $6.65 a share from a previous outlook of $6.20 to $6.40.
"Simple takeaway is stay long," on the stock, Peter Arment, an analyst at brokerage Sterne Agee, wrote in a note. "We remain buyers at current levels given our long-term targets, as the operating performance continues to provide upside to expectations." Arment has a price target of $164 on Boeing stock.
The stock rose $7.02 to $129.53 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
In a long-anticipated move, Boeing said it would increase production of the 787 Dreamliner to 12 aircraft per month in 2016, up from a target to 10 per month by the end of 2013.
Boeing plans to further ramp up the rate of the new, high-tech plane to 14 per month before the end of the decade.
The plane has suffered a number of technical glitches during its first two years in service, including overheating batteries that grounded the worldwide fleet for more than three months earlier this year.
LIFTS FULL-YEAR FORECAST
Rising production increases revenue and cash flow. But "given that it doesn't kick in till 2016, the benefits of this remains some way off," RBC Capital's Stallard wrote.
Boeing also lifted the forecast for unadjusted 2013 earnings to between $5.40 and $5.55 a share from $5.10 to $5.30.
It left unchanged its full-year revenue forecast at between $83 billion and $86 billion, and its target for delivering between 635 and 645 commercial aircraft for the full year.
In the first nine months, Boeing delivered 476 planes, including 170 in the latest quarter. That means it needs to deliver 169 in the fourth quarter to hit the top end of its target.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Jeffrey Benkoe)