Boeing's Air Race

This year has come with more than its share of bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, indictments . but at least one company will get to end the year on a high note. Various reports recently attribute a pleasant plethora of news to a resurgentBoeing (NYSE: BA  ) .

First, the Associated Press reported that the aerospace giant will, for the first time in five years, outsell French rival Airbus. The differential isn't small, either. According to figures obtained by AP, Boeing had booked 870 firm orders through Friday, while Airbus had sold 687 jets through the end of November. More impressive still is that Boeing's sales total is the most it's seen in any single year in nearly two decades.

Second, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Singapore Airlines was close to inking a deal with Boeing for 66 to 80 more planes. A report in AFX News this morning countered that claim by quoting a company spokesperson who said proposals from both Boeing and Airbus are still being weighed and that a decision was not imminent.

Maybe so, but my experience in PR tells me that the Journal story was likely the result of a well-placed leak by someone with the means to confirm its assertions. In other words: Don't be surprised if it was someone from Singapore Airlines who wants to pressure Airbus into cutting its prices. How's that good news for Boeing, you ask? Well, it wasn't long ago that Boeing was the one being asked to gut prices on its aging merchandise.

And finally, Russian state carrier Aeroflot wants to buy 22 Boeing aircraft worth more than $2.5 billion at list prices, according to two Russian business newspapers. Reuters quoted from the reports, which say that Aeroflot has decided on Boeing's highly popular 787 Dreamliner jet, which includes technology that promises to dramatically boost fuel efficiency. The new jets are part of a plan to update the Aeroflot fleet, which Reuters says faces its own struggles. For example, some planes were grounded earlier this year when problems with a domestically made jet interrupted a trip by President Vladimir Putin.

For its part, Airbus has more than doubled sales from 2004 and is still selling to both Singapore Airlines and Aeroflot. Yet it is Boeing's remarkable turnaround that has captured the imaginations of investors during 2005. Even today, the shares are up close to another 1%. Good news has a way of doing that. It can also make strong firms look expensive. Trading for a rich 30% premium to the S&P 500's forward P/E of 16, Boeing is beginning to fit that unfortunate description. Better keep those orders coming in, guys.

Land smoothly with related Foolishness:

  • Boeing may profit from another moon shot. Thanks, China.
  • The aerospace giant has seen higher altitudes since the introduction of the 787.
  • Here's why you should take Boeing on your next trip to Vegas.

Help your portfolio reach new heights in the New Year by taking a risk-free 30-day trial to any of our market-beatinginvesting newsletters. Or sign up today and getStocks 2006, which features a dozen of our analysts' best picks for the year ahead, free. Either way, all you have to lose is the prospect of a richer portfolio.

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Fool contributorTim Beyerswonders what first class will be like on the new 787. Care to help him find out, Boeing? Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.


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