Shares of Boeing (BA 0.92%) jumped 7.4% in early trading Wednesday, and remained up 6.9% as of 1:05 p.m. EST. The aerospace giant reported earnings of $5.93 per share in fiscal Q4 2018, on revenue of $28.3 billion.
These results greatly exceeded Wall Street's expectations for $4.58 per share on sales of $26.9 billion.
Investors cheered the results, but hold up: Were they really as good as people seem to think? After all, while sales were up 14% year over year in Q4, profits rose only 8% (and cash flow only 2%). Free cash flow actually declined by a small fraction of 1%, to $2.45 billion.
Still, that's a minor quibble for the quarter that was the capstone to fiscal 2018, and the news for Boeing's year as a whole was quite good. For the full year, sales grew a respectable 8% to $101.1 billion. Profits per diluted share soared 29% to $17.85. Cash flow was up 15%, and free cash flow rose even more strongly, up 17% at $13.6 billion.
So all in all, it was a pretty good year for Boeing -- and 2019 should be even better. It issued revised guidance for the new year, predicting it will earn between $21.90 and $22.10 per share (23% growth at the midpoint of estimates). Sales should range between $109.5 billion and $111.5 billion, up 9%. Thus, not only will Boeing be growing sales, it will also be growing margins on those sales, permitting profits to grow more than twice as fast as revenue.
Even at 21 times earnings (but barely 16 times free cash flow), and a 23% projected growth rate, I have no hesitation saying this: Boeing is a buy.