Boeing or Airbus? Which Stock Looks Best for 2014?

In many respects, Airbus trumped Boeing in 2013. But that's almost beside the point...

Jan 15, 2014 at 11:49AM


Or, maybe it's... Boeing (NYSE:BA)!

Actually, it depends on how you read the numbers, and which numbers you think are most important. So let's run down the stats quickly.

Boeing's 737 -- making winning look easy. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Deliveries (advantage: Boeing)
For the second year in a row, Boeing thumped Airbus in terms of the number of airplanes delivered to customers. The 648 planes that Boeing flew off to its 85 separate customers in 2013 exceeded the company's 2012 tally by nearly 8%. Boeing beat Airbus's performance (626 planes delivered) by 3.5%.

In one respect, however, Airbus did notch a win. Airbus noted this week that 93 separate customers received Airbus planes in 2013 -- eight more customers than Boeing reached. Given the difficulty (and cost) of convincing a customer to switch from a plane it's already invested in to a new plane, this could prove an advantage to Airbus going forward. Also working in Airbus' favor, 15 of its customers last year were brand-new buyers.

Airbus's A350 -- gaining on Boeing? Source: Wikimedia Commons

Orders (advantage: Airbus)
Airbus won a more decided advantage in the contest to book new orders. In 2013, Airbus clearly won this race, grossing 6% more orders than Boeing, and losing far fewer orders to cancellation. On average, Airbus customers were about one-third less likely to cancel their orders than were Boeing's. As a result, Airbus ended the year with 11% more plane sales booked than its rival.




Gross plane orders in 2013



Customer cancellations



Net orders for the year



Sources: Airbus, Boeing

With so many more orders coming in, Airbus also has piled up a commanding lead in the contest to amass backlog. Airbus says it now has 5,559 aircraft waiting to be built -- a pile of backlogged orders $809 billion tall. In comparison, even Boeing's 5,080-airplane backlog looks a bit light.

And when you consider that Boeing's mainly been winning orders for smaller, less valuable, single-aisle planes, Airbus's advantage in backlog may be even bigger than it appears.

As you can see, so far the arguments are pretty equally weighted, giving partisans of both Boeing and Airbus ample grounds to argue that "their" airplane maker is the biggest. For investors, though, the more important question is which company has the best stock. Given the choice to buy either Boeing or Airbus, which stock should you choose?

On this point, it's not even a close contest. The answer is "Boeing" by a nautical mile. Consider:




Market capitalization

$106.6 billion

$59.4 billion

GAAP earnings

$4.3 billion

$2.1 billion

Free cash flow (or outflow)

$9.0 billion

($955 million)

Dividend yield



Net cash (debt)

$6.3 billion

$1.2 billion

Right off the bat, you can see that Airbus is the more expensive stock at 28 times earnings compared to Boeing's P/E ratio of less than 25. And in fact, Boeing's an even better bargain than it at first appears.

Boeing's dividend is twice as large as Airbus'. Its massive cash war chest is five times as big. Topping it all off, Boeing's significant free cash flow (strongly positive where Airbus is negative, and twice as big as Boeing's own GAAP earnings), all confirm that Boeing is the best bargain.

Analysts see Boeing growing earnings at 12% annually over the next five years. If they're anywhere close to accurate about that, then Boeing stock is selling for a good enough price to buy today. Airbus' is not.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has had its share of troubles, but continues to soar. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Focus on what's important
You noticed the bit about Boeing paying its shareholders a 2.1% dividend yield, right? That's supremely important -- because dividend stocks can make you rich. It's as simple as that.

While they don't garner the notability of high-flying tech stocks, dividend-paying stocks are also less likely to crash and burn. And over the long term, the compounding effect of the quarterly payouts, as well as their growth, adds up faster than most investors imagine. With this in mind, our analysts sat down to identify the absolute best of the best when it comes to rock-solid dividend stocks, drawing up a list in this free report of nine that fit the bill. To discover the identities of these companies before the rest of the market catches on, you can download this valuable free report by simply clicking here now.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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