Boeing (NYSE:BA) is one of the world's only two manufacturers of large commercial jets, along with Europe's Airbus. Commercial jets represent a valuable and fast-growing market, and one that Boeing has made important investments to capture. Boeing believes that spending over a decade and over $30 billion in research and development for the sleek, modern 787 Dreamliner jet plane has positioned it to capitalize on the future of air travel.
Today, you can find out more about this opportunity with a sneak peak of The Motley Fool's premium research report on Boeing. In the full report, you'll find out whether Boeing is a buy or a sell with our research and analysis on the risks and opportunities facing Boeing, as well as a three key areas to watch that are critical to Boeing's long-term success and more.
Like many industries, the future growth market for air travel is in emerging economies. As people get richer, they take significantly more trips by air. Over the past 50 years, global air passenger traffic has grown at around 5% annually, well outpacing the rate of economic growth. Boeing expects that through 2031, the world will need 34,000 new airplanes, representing $4.5 trillion in sales, mostly from Asia. Chinese airlines, in particular, expect to triple their fleet size over the next decade, making China the fastest-growing market for passenger jets.
Boeing is gearing up to deliver. The 787 Dreamliner is the fastest-selling jet in the company's history, and it plans to nearly triple production, from 3.5 per month to 10 in 2013. Even at that pace, with over 800 orders undelivered, it will be years before Boeing needs to look for new customers.
Boeing's total order backlog is worth nearly $375 billion, compared to sales of less than $70 billion in 2011. Yet, the company is priced for only moderate growth, selling for 12 times earnings compared to 15 times earnings for the S&P 500. The reason for that was underscored in August, when Qantas Airways cancelled an order for 35 Dreamliners after Boeing delayed delivery by over three years. The deal was worth $8.5 billion to Boeing.
While delivery delays can frustrate customers, order cancellations probably have more to do with travel volumes being depressed in the short term due to the European debt crisis. Few airlines believe they have any serious choice but to upgrade their planes. Latest-generation jets, made up of carbon-composites instead of aluminum and utilizing modern technology, are drastically lighter, faster, more comfortable, and more fuel-efficient than older models. Even though some airlines still fly planes that have been around for 25 years or longer, passenger experience and the cost of jet fuel are absolutely critical factors for the airline business. The economics of the industry strongly favor newer-model vessels. As the world's largest manufacturer, shares of Boeing are poised to soar if travel demand returns to historical averages -- as long as it can keep its market leadership.