Boeing (NYSE:BA) may just have the next big thing in the aircraft industry with their revolutionary, next-generation 777X. With plenty of efficient innovations, it could fuel major growth for the company and one of its primary suppliers.
The 777X boasts the same twin-engine format as the 777, but with the range and weight capacity of a jumbo jet like the 747. It will be the first-ever twin-engine jet capable of both traveling similar distances and carrying similar payloads as a jumbo jet. The aerospace consultant Avitas notes that the 777X, "is aimed at a market segment where it lacks a direct rival, and may see a very good run," according to a Bloomberg report.
The first model being developed, the 777-9X, will be able to fly more than 8,000 nautical miles, carrying 400-plus passengers (more than 15% more than the Airbus A350), while still burning 20% less fuel than the current 777. The second model will be able to fly more than 9,000 nautical miles, capable of making a nonstop flight from New York to Singapore, as Bloomberg Businessweek noted.
The engine, the General Electric (NYSE:GE) GE9X, is the most powerful commercial jet engine ever made. As an improved version of the already innovative GE90, the GE9X boasts a market-changing 10% increase in fuel efficiency. Other changes will include carbon fiber composite fan blades, which are lighter yet stronger than conventional blades, and ceramic matrix composites that can perform at 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to GE is hotter than any alloy can handle.
GE's Aviation Division is its most profitable business, with $3.75 billion in profits from a 2012 revenue of $19.99 billion, up 6% from the previous year. And the 777X is a promising opportunity to make GE Aviation even more profitable, since Boeing selected GE's engine over competing Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce proposals back in March.
The 777X also has 223-foot carbon-fiber wings that require 10% less thrust, and its overall operating costs run 15% less than the 777's. One of the reasons for the lower operating costs are the 777X's hinged, folding wingtips, which allow it to avoid airport regulations that confine larger planes of its size to use specific widened gates and taxiways. These widened areas cost more to use because they take up twice the space.
These lower costs definitely attract more airline clients, and Lufthansa has already placed an $11 billion order for 34 of the jets. Boeing estimates that the 777X will be in service by early 2019.
The current 777 is one of Boeing's best-selling planes, with 1473 total orders as of October 2013, so the company already has a good foundation for the 777X. In the last five years, the lowest amount of annual gross orders for the 777 was 30 in 2009, and the highest was 202 in 2011. The average was about 87 orders per year, which does not include cancellations.
The 777 has an average list price of $295 million, and although Boeing has not made the 777X's price public, based on Lufthansa's order it's in the region of $320 million. Looking at the order history of the 777, the 777X could generate almost $30 billion in revenue per year, if that 87-plane gross order average holds true.
However, 87 orders per year for the 777X is actually a very pessimistic figure. For unlike the 777, which has the Airbus A330, the out-of-production A340, and the A350 as direct market competitors, the new prototype lacks a real rival. It's a one-of-a kind, the first to be able to do what it does.
The A340, A330, and A350 have a total order count of 2,427 as of the end of October. Thus, the 777 has only captured 38% or so of the total orders between it and its rivals in the last 20 years. Not to imply that the 777X will capture 2,427 more orders in the next 20 years, but you can expect that it will grab more than the 777, not hindered by the pressure of an actual rival. Will it take business away from the 777? Probably, but Boeing seems more than willing to take that bet.
While a lot of the gains the 777X will generate for both Boeing and GE won't be seen until a couple years, there is quite a possibility for a jump following the Dubai Airshow on Nov. 17-21, in which the 777X will be unveiled.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, analysts from Sterne, Agee & Leach predict over 100 more orders for a whopping $34 billion in response to the plane's unveiling. That could give both Boeing and GE an encouraging jumpstart in stock growth.
With a recent 21% rise in share price over the past two months, Boeing now has a P/E ratio of 24.09, meaning that for every one dollar of earnings, investors are willing to pay $24.09. Thanks to impressive earnings of $1.80, an increase in net margins between the second and third quarters, and a string of good prospects, Boeing now has its highest P/E ratio since 2010. The encouraging P/E ratio suggests that investors expect significant growth in the coming years.
The 777X could indeed be the next best thing in the Aircraft market. It's innovative, efficient, powerful, lacks a rival, and will most likely give Boeing and GE a competitive edge over the rest of their respective industries. It's too early to tell exactly how much return it might generate, but if this innovation does take over the airline market, you won't want to miss out.