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Boeing's Continuing Climb

By Brian Gorman - Updated Nov 15, 2016 at 1:16AM

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The company can consolidate its lead if it overcomes some challenges.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) released its latest earnings report earlier this week, and the figures were eye-popping. Although the company certainly deserves credit for its performance, the results also in part reflect an implosion at Airbus, its chief rival in commercial aerospace. Boeing should continue to benefit from the damage to Airbus' reputation in 2007, as long as the American company doesn't generate negative headlines itself.

Boeing's fourth-quarter revenue surged 26% to $17.5 billion, while per-share earnings under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) shot up 122% to $1.29. While these results were inflated by one-time items, even after factoring those out, EPS still increased 57% to $1.16.

The company's commercial aircraft business stands out as the star performer in the quarter. Revenue surged 37% and operating earnings more than doubled, thanks to a 41% increase in the number of commercial airplane deliveries. And the future also looks bright -- year-end backlog was up 22% versus 2005, to $250 billion.

It seems fairly clear that the improvement in Boeing's outlook has to do with the turmoil at its rival. The France-based Airbus has recently experienced multiple setbacks with its A380 super-jumbo jet program, and both it and its parent company, European Aeronautics Defense and Space (EADS), have suffered management turnover at the highest levels. Granted, orders for the A380's competitor, the 747, didn't exactly surge from 2005 to 2006, rising from 48 to 72.

However, buyers clearly shifted toward Boeing and away from Airbus in other aircraft categories. For example, Boeing secured 733 orders in 2006 for its 737, a single-aisle plane popular with discount airlines such as Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), vs. 574 orders in 2005. By comparison, in 2006, Airbus captured 673 orders for the A320, the 737's competitor, after pulling in 918 orders for the planes in 2005.

It will take at least a year for Airbus to rebuild its reputation by showing that its management team is stable and that it can deliver planes on schedule. That means Boeing has time to consolidate its lead. Admittedly, it has the potential to hit its own turbulence, considering the challenges involved in building its new 787 jet. However, if Boeing can keep to the schedule for the plane, look for it to dominate the skies in the coming years.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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