Airbus Losing Altitude

Shares of Airbus parent EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company), already 40% below their 52-week high, descended further today on foreign stock exchanges, as investors learned that demand for the company's commercial jets weakened considerably compared to last year.

The BBC reports that Airbus has booked only 117 orders through the first six months of 2006, 58% lower than last year at this time. Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , on the other hand, continues to excel. Its 487 orders thus far in 2006 are an 11% improvement over the first six months of 2005.

There are also signs that the gap could widen further. EADS has lost several top managers in the wake of embarrassing delays with its A380 superjumbo jet. Ill-timed stock sales that may be related to the A380's problems are also under review by French regulators, and now a large shareholder group has filed a class action suit.

But Boeing has problems of its own. The 787, dubbed the "Dreamliner" by executives, has experienced issues with construction of the all-important fuselage, or main body, of the aircraft. Management insists that the 787's delivery schedule won't be affected, but delays are common when it comes to the aerospace business.

Boeing's stock, however, doesn't reflect such a possibility, according to columnist Jon D. Markman. He recently wrote that Boeing trades well above its 10-year averages for book value and price-to-sales. My check of the data at Capital IQ shows he's right. Stocks priced for perfection often fall hard and fast.

So, are there profits to be made as EADS drags down the sector? I think so. Consider Brazilian jet maker Embraer (NYSE: ERJ  ) , which has recently become much cheaper. Unlike Boeing, it's trading for near-historic lows in terms of price-to-sales and price-to-book value, is paying a market-beating dividend, and is filling a critical need as fuel-efficient regional jets take over short-haul routes both here and overseas. (Just this week, Taiwan's Mandarin Airlines agreed to lease eight of Embraer's newest jets.)

It's been a rough month for EADS investors. I feel for them. But when others flee, Fools press on in search of new profit-making opportunities. The obvious play in light of the clouds surrounding Airbus is Boeing. But, as fellow Fool Bill Mann says, the obvious will rarely help you. That's bound to be the case here, too, so invest accordingly.

Embraer is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Ask for us anall-access passand you'll get a backstage look at all of the stocks that are helping David and Tom Gardner beat the S&P 500 by more than 35% as of this writing. It'sfree for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers wonders how long the reality distortion field surrounding Boeing will last. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out which stocks he owns by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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