Jittery take-off for Boeing CEO

BOEING’s celebration of its centenary year is off to a rocky start, with new CEO Dennis Muilenburg under pressure to address concerns about potential earnings and the strategy for its defence business as he met investors on Wednesday.

Boeing shares dived last week after a report that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was investigating how the company accounts for the costs of developing its airliners.

Neither Boeing nor the SEC have confirmed the probe.

Its stock is down about 22% for the year to date.

Boeing has said it has racked up more than $30bn in deferred costs for the 787 that it has not charged against its income statement. Some analysts predict Boeing will have to take a charge for the 787.

On one hand, Boeing executives have said the civilian airline industry’s boom will persist and on Tuesday the company said it expected to ramp 787 production up by 20% to 12 aircraft a month by midyear.

However, slower global growth and cheap oil — which encourages airlines to keep older aircraft flying — have persuaded some analysts that the cycle is turning.

Adding to Boeing’s troubles, a US agency on Tuesday rejected the company’s effort to overturn an award to Northrop Grumman of a $21.4bn tender for a new bomber.

It was a setback for Boeing’s military business, which was counting on winning the bomber contract to stay in the combat aircraft business. Mr Muilenburg ran the defence business before becoming CEO last year.

Boeing has struggled to find foreign buyers for its fighter jets after losing the F-35 fighter jet competition to Lockheed in 2001.

It had to take $1.3bn in pretax charges on its KC-46A refuelling aircraft for the US Air Force.

Loren Thompson, a defence consultant, said Boeing needed a larger defence acquisition to help offset a slowdown in commercial airliner sales.

In civil aviation, Boeing says it expects passenger traffic to rise 6% this year, and the outlook for jetliner sales remains strong.

But it surprised investors last month by disclosing that it expected deliveries of its best-selling 737 to fall this year as it starts making the successor 737 MAX.

Boeing said last week it would make further job cuts in the airliner business.




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