Boeing Is Coming Up Sevens

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) shareholders, rejoice! The company is rolling lucky sevens -- as in 777s, 787s, and 737s. The lifeblood of aircraft manufacturing is the order book, and Boeing has a fat one now. And for a company recently overwhelmed by questions regarding its corporate governance practices and ongoing competition due to forthcoming Airbus product releases, that has to be a nice thing to hear.

The big news of the weekend was Emirates' $9.7 billion (list price) firm order for 42 of the 777 aircraft, and it also secured the purchase rights for 20 additional 777 aircraft. How that for coming up 7s? Oh, and there is no immediate gratification here. Emirates will have to wait in line until 2007 before the first aircraft in this order will be available.

Also making news was the $3.5 billion sale of 26 of Boeing's next-generation twin-engine 787 Dreamliners to two leasing companies. These highly anticipated jets offer better fuel economy, a highly sought-after feature with today's jet fuel prices. The first delivery of these jets will take place in 2009. The long delay is because, as of mid-November, 25 customers had already ordered 305 Dreamliners -- and the first will not enter production until 2007.

Boeing's name was also in the news as President Bush wrapped up his two-day trip to Beijing. The company sold 70 of its 737 aircraft, worth $4 billion, to the Chinese.

So, how big is $17.2 billion in orders? Last quarter, commercial aircraft sales at Boeing were $4.9 billion (although, because of a strike, the 61 aircraft delivered was 21 fewer than Boeing had planned). Still, you can see that last weekend's orders were equivalent to more than half a year's revenue at today's run rates.

The news has sent Boeing's stock up more than 3% -- less than a dollar from its 52-week high. While these orders will not affect 2006 results, they do assure investors that there will be firm orders waiting to be filled for 2007 and beyond.

Boeing recently upped its 2005 and 2006 earnings guidance. Operating cash flow, which will be a strong $7 billion this year, will slump to $5.5 billion in 2006 as the company makes sizeable investments in new aircraft, including the 787, a new 747-8 (which uses Dreamliner technology), and a new and bigger Business Jet.

At the midpoint of 2006 guidance, the stock trades for 21.6 times forward earnings. That is a bit rich for a company that analysts have pegged for 13% annual growth for the next five years (although those numbers may edge upward slightly with these latest order announcements). Investors looking for exposure to aviation but wanting a lower price to earnings might want to consider General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) , Honeywell (NYSE: HON  ) , and Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL  ) .

Are you looking for great companies with an equally great future? If so, try a subscription to theMotley Fool Stock Advisornewsletter.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own any shares in the companies mentioned. Click hereto see The Motley Fool's disclosure policy.

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