WSJ US BusinessBoeing Profit Falls Amid Production, Regulatory Problems

July 27, 20220
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The company said its second-quarter results showed it was making progress in stabilizing its operations after a series of production and regulatory problems have prevented it from delivering commercial aircraft on time and without quality issues.

“We do believe we’re in the middle of a momentum shift,” Chief Executive David Calhoun said in a call with analysts Wednesday.

Boeing shares were recently trading around even, having climbed more than 3% at one point.

Production of the 737 MAX has reached 31 planes a month, up from 16 a year ago, as it deals with supply-chain challenges such as engine shortages that are also affecting rival Airbus SE, which reports quarterly earnings later Wednesday. Boeing has said it stepped up 737 deliveries in June.

Executives said Wednesday Boeing appeared on the verge of receiving regulatory approval to resume deliveries of its wide-body 787 Dreamliner. A series of production issues has kept the plane maker from handing over that jet to customers for much of the last two years, leaving it with more than $25 billion of the aircraft in inventory.

A rebound in air travel has fueled airlines’ continued demand for new aircraft, which Mr. Calhoun said hasn’t slowed. “While we understand the sort of recession fears that are growing out there, so far it has not impacted the aviation industry or our customers,” Mr. Calhoun said.

Boeing is typically nearly tied for orders with rival Airbus entering the annual Farnborough Air Show, but this year it’s well behind. WSJ’s George Downs reports from the show on how Boeing is trying to catch up and what it will take to restore balance to the aviation duopoly. Illustration: Rami Abukalam

The company on Wednesday reported a profit of $160 million, or 32 cents a share, for the three months to June 30, down from $567 million, or $1, during the same period a year earlier.

The adjusted per-share loss of 37 cents, which excludes pension charges, fell short of the 13-cent loss consensus among analysts polled by FactSet. Sales in the quarter fell 2% to $16.7 billion, with analysts expecting $17.6 billion.

Results of Arlington, Va.-based Boeing’s defense business continued to be weighed down by around $400 million in charges during the quarter. This included $93 million on its Starliner space capsule in the quarter. Boeing successfully launched the Starliner in May, but it has incurred higher costs after earlier failed attempts to launch and dock with the International Space Station. It also took a $147 million charge on its MQ-25 refueling drone as costs rose to meet requirements set by the U.S. Navy.

Boeing faces a possible strike at three of its defense plants from Aug. 1 after workers rejected a new contract, which Mr. Calhoun said on CNBC could disrupt deliveries.

The company said it had positive operating cash flow in the second quarter. It reiterated the target of generating surplus cash for the full year.

Over the last couple of years, Boeing has dealt with production and regulatory problems that have impeded a recovery from two crises: a nearly two-year grounding of its 737 MAX after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, and the pandemic’s hit to demand for new aircraft.

A year ago, Mr. Calhoun expressed optimism, telling analysts in July 2021: “We are turning a corner, and the recovery is gaining momentum.”

More recently, Mr. Calhoun has said this year would mark a turning point. “I can’t measure it week by week or month by month or even quarter by quarter, but I know the year is going to be substantially better,” he said at a June analyst event.

Airbus has been producing its A320 narrow-body family at a monthly rate of about 50, with a goal of reaching 75 by 2025. But Mr. Calhoun said Wednesday he couldn’t predict when Boeing would be in a position to increase its 737 MAX production rates, citing supply constraints as a barrier to ramping up.

“If I thought I had an engine supply, I’d do it today,” he said.

Boeing has had to slow production of its narrow-body aircraft this year due to supply bottlenecks, and getting stored MAX jets out of inventory has taken longer than the company anticipated. Scores of the planes have been in storage since the MAX grounding. Many of the MAX jets are bound for customers in China, which hasn’t allowed the aircraft to return to service in the country.

After previously saying it expected to deliver about 500 of 737 MAX jets by the end of the year, Boeing finance chief Brian West on Wednesday said the company now estimates it will deliver closer to 400 of the aircraft by the end of 2022. As of June 30, the company had handed over 181 of the aircraft to customers.

Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com and Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

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