Boeing (NYSE:BA), facing uncertain demand for its 737 Max jet once it is recertified to fly, is reportedly scrambling to find creative ways for airlines to finance new plane deliveries.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 after a pair of fatal accidents, but Boeing hopes to have the plane cleared to resume flying later this year.
The plane, with its fuel-efficient engines and category-leading range, was once expected to be among the best-selling aircraft models of all time. But a lot has changed since the 737 Max launch. The crashes and the publicity that followed them have damaged the 737 Max brand. And airlines, due to COVID-19, are not in the market for new aircraft.
Airlines and aircraft leasing companies have cancelled hundreds of 737 Max orders so far this year, and American Airlines Group -- the customer that prompted Boeing to design the 737 Max years ago -- is reportedly thinking of scaling back its large order for the plane.
In an effort to stimulate demand, Boeing, according to Reuters, is encouraging aircraft leasing companies to make deals to buy planes earmarked for airlines and then leasing them back to the airlines, allowing the carriers to take delivery without being saddled with the mortgage. Boeing in return is offering to cancel or defer some of the 737 Max orders the lessors already have on their books.
If that fails, Boeing, according to the report, is considering buying the planes directly and leasing them back to airlines through its Boeing Capital financing unit.
Financing issues appear to be what is driving American's reported decision to reconsider its 737 Max deliveries. The airline, according to Reuters, had financing in place for 17 Max planes that were originally scheduled to be delivered this year, but the financing had expired, and American is having trouble replacing it on terms similar to what was offered pre-pandemic.
Boeing is desperate to move the inventory. The company has more than 400 built. But it has not yet delivered 737 Max planes it needs to monetize in order to reverse its cash issues. Slow deliveries will also likely lead to Boeing cutting production rates for new planes in 2021 and perhaps into 2022, a blow to both Boeing's cash flow and to its suppliers.