Shares of Boeing (BA 0.27%) were down 4% as of noon EDT on Wednesday following the company's second-quarter earnings report. The results, as expected, were bad, and the company was clear it expects it will need years to work through its current troubles.
Before markets opened Wednesday, Boeing reported a second-quarter loss of $4.79 per share on revenue of $11.8 billion, far worse than the $2.54 per-share loss on $13.16 billion in sales markets had been expecting. The company's defense business performed better than expected, but it was not enough to offset losses at commercial.
The commercial aviation business has been under pressure for more than a year, with Boeing's 737 Max grounded in March 2019 after two fatal accidents. For a while, Boeing has been able to fall back on sales of other jets, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused travel demand to evaporate and led airlines to cut costs by grounding planes and deferring orders, hurting the entire commercial aerospace sector.
The news wasn't all bad for Boeing. The company's $5.3 billion in cash burn in the quarter was actually better than what analysts had expected. And the company reported more than $32 billion in cash as of quarter's end, giving it a sizable cushion to fall back on.
Boeing also confirmed a lot of rumors about production cuts designed to bring down costs. The company will cut 787 Dreamliner production to six per month in 2021, with the 777X debut pushed back to 2022.
The company, which had originally hoped to be manufacturing more than 55 737 Max planes per month by now, will instead make fewer than 80 for the entire year but hopes to gradually increase production to 31 per month in 2022.
In a quarter full of negatives, the good news is things were not as bad as they could have been. Boeing still hopes to resume 737 Max deliveries before year's end, which would allow the company to work through its inventory of more than 400 planes that have been built but not yet delivered and begin to normalize production. That in turn would help cut cash burn, with Boeing saying it sees a path toward positive free cash flow in 2021.
Boeing shares, which back in March were off more than 70% for the year, are now down "only" 50% year to date.
I said back in May that I think the worst is over for Boeing investors, but warned it will likely take years for the business to fully recover. With another quarter in the books, I see little reason to change that assessment.