Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

Boeing's $135 Billion Order Haul for 2017 Mutes Slowdown Worries

Updated on
  • Company logs 745 sales for cash-cow 737 narrow-body jet
  • Total orders exceed deliveries, also boosted by Dreamliner

Boeing Co. landed 912 jetliner orders last year with a list value of $134.8 billion, as surging sales of its highly profitable 737 and carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner quieted concerns of an aerospace slowdown.

The Chicago-based planemaker delivered a record 763 commercial aircraft, in line with a company forecast, according to a statement Tuesday. The results exceeded Boeing’s assurances that sales would roughly equal factory output.

The totals provide a gauge of the company’s financial success, since the bulk of an aircraft’s payments are made at delivery. The tally also will help determine bragging rights with rival Airbus SE, which will reveal its full results next week. While Boeing led for most of 2017, the European manufacturer received 705 orders in a late December wave that pushed its sales past 1,000 jetliners for the year.

“By every measure, it was an extraordinarily good year for us,” Randy Tinseth, a Boeing marketing vice president, told reporters during a conference call. “I’m sorry for the lack of drama, but the team performed extraordinarily well.”

The comments marked a strong finish to a year that saw Boeing overtake General Electric Co. as the U.S. industrial company with the largest market value. Boeing shares rose 2.6 percent to $318.15 at 12:53 p.m. in New York, the biggest gain on the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average. Since the start of 2017, the planemaker’s stock has doubled.

Smooth Debut

While Airbus contended with mechanical issues and a shortage of Pratt & Whitney engines for its upgraded narrow-body aircraft, the A320neo, Boeing’s competing offering, the 737 Max, had a relatively smooth market entry after resolving an engine glitch that hampered some early deliveries.

The U.S. planemaker landed 745 orders last year for its 737 family of narrow-body aircraft, the company’s main source of profit. It delivered 529 of the jetliners, including 74 of the Max, the latest version of the jet family. The new model is sold out through 2022, Tinseth said.

Sales of wide-body planes also flourished. Boeing generated 94 orders for its 787 Dreamliner, its most advanced jet, and 60 orders for its largest twin-engine family, the 777.

The lone sour note was that cancellations of the 747 jumbo exceeded sales by two planes last year, despite a rebound in air cargo. With just 12 unfilled orders, the backlog is only sufficient to keep Boeing’s final assembly line open through 2019. The company is in talks for additional sales with operators of its 747-400 and 747-8 freighters, Tinseth said.

Boeing’s 2017 orders and deliveries “highlight ongoing strength in commercial aerospace supported by solid air traffic demand and attractive replacement solutions,” Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu said in a note to clients. Boeing delivered one more jetliner than the 209 aircraft she had forecast for the fourth quarter, boosting estimates for its incremental revenue by about $350 million.

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