If I were to rank The Boeing Co. (BA) on how spoiled a company it is, I’d give it an 11 right now on a scale of 1 to 10.
To say things are “going its way” is quite the understatement.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the dotted line last weekend to approve a $8.7 billion, 27-year extension in tax breaks to convince Boeing to build its new 777X and its carbon fiber wings in Seattle.
That’s the biggest carrot-dangling, pot-sweetening deal in history between state and corporation. Prior to this Alcoa (AA) was top dog of tax breaks at $5.6 billion, followed by Boeing with $4.4 billion in four other deals, Intel (INTC) with six deals valued at $3.6 billion, General Motors (GM) with 11 sweet deals totaling $2.7 billion, and the Ford Motor Co. (F) with $2.1 billion in nine deals.
Up in the air
Boeing isn’t saying “I do” to Washington just yet. The company says it will make a decision where to set up shop for the 777X in two or three months. Meanwhile, Boeing officials have mentioned Long Beach, Calif., as a possible alternative.
While the tax break is tempting, Boeing and the Machinists Union in District 751 would have to agree on terms to keep the 777X in the Everett, Wash., jet assembly plant. Right now, they are at odds. The 30,000 machinists want an eight-year contract with “massive” pension and health benefits that Boeing isn’t thus far willing to provide.
This conflict is as much about emotion as it is the almighty dollar. Four years ago, Boeing threatened to set up a second 787 line in South Carolina if the union in Seattle didn’t agree not to strike for 10 years. The union called Boeing’s bluff and the company took its business to the southeast.
$95 billion in orders at air show
Meanwhile, the aerospace giant continues to wow on a very large scale. At the Dubai Airshow about a week ago, Boeing netted a record $95 billion worth of orders for its 777X jet—the largest-ever commercial aircraft order by value. The big deals were led by Emirates Airline (150 planes), Etihad Airway (25 planes), Qatar Airways (50 planes) and Lufthansa (34 planes).
The 777X jet will secure Boeing’s foothold in the wide-body aircraft market for years to come. Testing of its GE-powered 787-9 Dreamliner hasn’t gone quite according to plans, but it is still expected to deliver the 787-9 to Air New Zealand right on time in mid-2014 for the first launch in Perth.
Nothing really seems to faze Boeing. Its stock has been trading through the roof lately, especially after announcing a $5 billion increase to backlog orders, giving it a total $415.1 billion in backlog at the end of September.
One cloud in the picture this year been technical issues with the 787 Dreamliner. Fleets of the fuel-efficient Dreamliner, which had years of delays due to production problems, were grounded for three months early this year by airlines around the world after several incidents of overheating batteries and other glitches.
Last month Boeing reported better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter. Net income rose 12% from the year-earlier period to 1.16 billion. Boeing’s revenues were $22.1 billion, up from $20 billion in the year-earlier quarter. The company said a decline in its military aircraft business, due to decreased spending by the Pentagon, was offset by strong commercial aircraft sales. Boeing makes a range of military aircraft and systems including Chinook helicopters and F-15 jets.
Boeing shares took a 3% hit Wednesday after Oppenheimer downgraded the stock from outperform to perform.
But Boeing shares are still up about 90% from their 52-week low. After the steady climb in 2013, many aerospace analysts still see more to come in 2014.