- Boeing’s third-quarter results on Wednesday revealed that the airline’s profits had fallen 95% in the first nine months of 2019, a year when it has grappled with the aftermath of two 737 Max plane crashes that killed 346 people, grounded the plane around the world, and left Boeing fighting a reputational crisis.
- The results were released a day after a senior executive was ousted and on the same day when those investigating the first of the two disasters, involving a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, told victims’ families that the plane’s design contributed to the crash.
- Boeing had already announced billions in losses while facing lawsuits and demands for compensation from airlines over the crashes and the 737 Max’s subsequent grounding.
- Some analysts had also downgraded Boeing’s stock even before Wednesday’s results were posted, saying they could not recommend people buy it amid the crisis.
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Boeing’s third-quarter earnings report on Wednesday revealed that the aviation giant’s profits fell 95% in the first nine months of 2019 compared with the same period a year earlier.
Its net earnings for the quarter also fell 51% compared with the same period in 2018, and the company said it had a negative free cash flow of $2.89 billion for the quarter, compared with a positive free cash flow of $4.10 billion for the same period last year.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Revenue was down 21% compared with the third quarter of 2018, from just over $25 billion to just under $20 billion
- Earnings from operations fell 97% compared with the first nine months of 2018, to $229 million from $7 billion
- Its core operating margin fell 3 percentage points compared with the third quarter of 2018, to 4.5% from 7.5%
Boeing also announced plans to slow production of the 787 Dreamliner for two years beginning in late 2020, blaming “the current global trade environment.”
The results come as Boeing continues to grapple with the grounding of the 737 Max, which has not flown commercially since March, when the second crash occurred. The grounding has led airlines to demand compensation and, in some cases, refunds amid uncertainty over when the plane can fly again.
CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company was making “steady progress” on getting the plane back into service. “Our top priority remains the safe return to service of the 737 Max,” he said. In its second-quarter results, Boeing said it lost nearly $3 billion on top of $5 billion already factored in over the continued grounding of the plane around the world.
Steve Dickson, the administrator of the US Federal Aviation Administration, said on Tuesday that Boeing had made progress with its updates to the plane but that there was “considerable work to do” before the planes could be certified to fly again.
Boeing said it “continues to work with the FAA and global civil aviation authorities to complete remaining steps toward certification and readiness for return to service.”
It also acknowledged that global regulators had decided to examine the plane themselves instead of trusting the US FAA to recertify the plane. Boeing said the different “regulatory authorities will determine the timing and conditions of return to service in each relevant jurisdiction.”
Boeing has said it wants the planes back in the air by the end of this year, but Europe’s aviation regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which is doing its own certification tests of the plane, does not expect the planes to return until January at the earliest, Reuters reported.
Boeing on Wednesday said that its results assumed the plane would be approved to fly in the final quarter of the year – though an increasing number of airlines have canceled flights involving the plane into the start of 2020 – and that it would “gradually increase the 737 production rate from 42 per month to 57 per month by late 2020.”
Boeing has slowed its production of 737 Max planes as the grounding drags on.
The results come as a judgment day for Boeing, a day after a senior boss was ousted
Boeing posted its third-quarter results the day after Kevin McAllister, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes – the Boeing unit that builds passenger planes – lost his job in the most significant management change in the company since the crashes.
The release of the third-quarter results also coincided with news that crash investigators in Indonesia told relatives of those killed in the October 2018 crash involving the airline Lion Air that design issues with the 737 Max plane contributed to the fatal plunge, alongside “deficiencies” in the flight crew’s communication.
Some analysts are now starting to turn against Boeing, with both UBS and Credit Suisse no longer recommending that investors buy Boeing shares before the results were posted.
The Credit Suisse analyst Robert Spingarn on Monday said “we can no longer defend the shares in light of the latest discoveries, discoveries which significantly increase the risk profile for investors” after Reuters reported internal messages from a former Boeing pilot who said the Max software was acting erratically for months before the plane started flying.
Boeing’s previous results also suggested that the Washington-state-based aviation giant could soon lose its crown as the world’s largest planemaker, as its deliveries fell behind those of its European rival Airbus. Airbus has not yet posted its third-quarter results.