Boeing: Should Investors Ground Boeing Shares
Yesterday, the crisis concerning Boeing's (NYSE:BA) new 787 Dreamliner went from bad to worse as regulators worldwide moved to ground the aircraft until the company can establish that its batteries are safe. The previous day, a second All Nippon Airways passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing after an apparent fire. This is headline risk at its worst, but the market has remained remarkably sanguine in the face of these events: As of Thursday's close, shares of the Dow component were off just 3.5% from the 52-week high they set on Jan. 4.
Robert Crandall, the former CEO of American Airlines, put the issue in context, telling Bloomberg Television:
[The 787] is Boeing's largest and most important product for the next 15 years, so this is a big and concerning problem for both the airlines and Boeing. ... It'll be a very significant financial cost to Boeing. The good news from their point of the view is that the company has great financial resources and they'll overcome it. It's a big problem -- the magnitude of the problem isn't going to be known until engineers come up with what the solution is.
That uncertainty in terms of timing and ultimate cost is the potential source of share price volatility and, ultimately, capital loss. However, it's worth remembering that the 787 entered service more than three years late after a series of delays. The current reaction in the share price is similar to what happened when Boeing announced delays to the 787 launch in October 2007 and then in January 2008. That doesn't mean things things can't get worse for shareholders: In June 2006, Boeing's competitor Airbus announced that its A380 superjumbo jet would suffer a six-month delay, causing a 26% fall in the shares of its parent company, European Aeronautic Defence and Space.
Right now, potential Boeing investors should remain in a holding pattern. As for existing shareholders, the captain has requested they return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts -- they could encounter some turbulence up ahead.