Third Time's the Charm for Boeing

It sounds crazy, but often, the way the stock market works, bad news is good news.

Case in point: On Wednesday, aerospace giant Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) issued its third announcement of delays in producing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a.k.a. Logistical Nightmare Liner. It seems Boeing is hell-bent on bringing the old quip "A day late and a pound short" into the 21st century. It will henceforth read: "15 months late and, in the best-case scenario, 84 planes short." (Admittedly, not as punchy as the classic version, but that's why it's a classic.)

Yes, in addition to delaying production, Boeing slashed the number of planes it will deliver in 2009 by nearly 80%. This means that its long line of impatient customers -- Continental (NYSE: CAL  ) , Northwest (NYSE: NWA  ) , and AIG's (NYSE: AIG  ) International Lease Finance subsidiary among them -- will be waiting at least 15 months longer than any of them expected to.

It also suggests to yours Fool-y that potential customers such as United (Nasdaq: UAUA  ) and American Airlines (NYSE: AMR  ) , which have held off ordering the new Boeing wonderjet, will have to wait even longer before getting their own 787s. (Then again, buying new jets is perhaps the least of their worries right now.)

Up is down, black is white, bad is good
Bad news, but, apparently, it's also good news. Boeing shares have risen nearly 5% since the news. Why investors view a halving of previous delivery estimates, and another six-month delay in production, as "good news," I've got two theories:

  • Investors thought the delay would be longer than six months, or perhaps worse ...
  • They feared the delay might be shorter.

Had Boeing pushed the envelope and targeted another three-month extension on the 787, then failed to meet its deadline once again, investors' faith in management would almost certainly have broken. As it is, Boeing is building in two months more than even it thinks are needed to wrap this project up, the idea being to give itself a "safety margin" in case unexpected problems crop up during testing and certification of the 787.

So in retrospect, perhaps it was also good news when Boeing lost the KC-X Tanker contract to Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC  ) last month. Now Boeing can use all that free time to get things right on the commercial side of its business. Here's hoping the third time is the charm.

KC What? X Who? Get the lowdown on Boeing's other airborne tragicomedy:


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