Boeing lifts profit outlook as jetliner demand booms

An American Airlines Boeing 737 airplane takes off from a runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on Sept 23, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
An American Airlines Boeing 737 airplane takes off from a runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on Sept 23, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US aerospace and defence giant Boeing raised its 2014 profit outlook Wednesday despite a first-quarter profit slide, citing strong demand for its new jetliners.

A sharp rise in pension costs from a change in retirement plans offset Boeing's robust commercial aircraft deliveries as airlines seek to renew aging fleets with more fuel-efficient jetliners.

Boeing posted net profit in the first quarter of US$965 million (S$1.24 billion), down 12.7 per cent from a year ago but nevertheless better than analysts expected.

Boeing took a US$334 million charge for retirement plan changes.

Core earnings per share came in at US$1.76, three cents higher than a year ago and well above the US$1.56 estimate.

Boeing posted an 8.3 per cent rise in revenues to US$20.47 billion, and operating cash flow soared 112 per cent to US$1.1 billion.

The Chicago-based company raised its 2014 profit forecast to between US$7.15 and US$7.35 per share, from US$7.00 to US$7.20, to reflect a tax settlement.

"Our outlook for the full year remains positive on the strength of demand for our fuel-efficient new commercial airplanes, our solid position in global defense, space and security markets" and the company's focus on improving financial and operational strength, Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney said in a statement.

Though the 2015 earnings forecast missed Wall Street expectations, Boeing shares scored a solid gain. Investors received more than US$3 billion during the quarter through its share repurchase program and dividends.

Boeing shares jumped 2.1 per cent to US$130.24 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange, the best performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in an overall lower market.

Commercial aircraft revenues climbed 19 per cent to US$12.74 billion on higher deliveries of two of its best-selling models - the 787 Dreamliner and the 737 - after the company boosted production rates to cope with surging demand.

Boeing heftily beat European rival Airbus in the deliveries race. The company delivered 161 jetliners in the January-March quarter, a year-over-year gain of 18 per cent; Airbus delivered 141.

The re-engined 737 made up the bulk of the deliveries at 115, while 18 of the high-tech 787 Dreamliners were sent to customers. A year ago Boeing only delivered one 787 after the airplane was grounded worldwide following battery problems.

The company said it expects to deliver between 715 and 725 jetliners this year, after a record 648 deliveries in 2013.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes won 235 net orders during the first quarter, which ended with a backlog of more than 5,1000 airplanes valued at US$374 billion.