Boeing's (NYSE:BA) been cruising higher this year: Its stock price has gained more than 80% year to date, and it doesn't appear to be sinking anytime soon. Just last month orders for its next-generation 777X aircraft totaled nearly $100 billion during the Dubai Airshow. That brought the total of Boeing's already massive backlog of orders to more than $500 billion. This provides investors with plenty of transparency and a stable revenue stream in case the company or the economy hit a speed bump, or if Boeing's defense segment declines amid government budget cuts. This week the good news continues for investors: Boeing just announced more plans to return value to shareholders.
As you would expect from any juggernaut company trading in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Boeing's dividend has been extremely consistent. Consistent, that is, until management on Monday announced a 50% quarterly dividend increase to $0.73 per share.
Management also announced that Boeing's board of directors authorized an additional $10 billion for the company's share repurchase program. That authorization will add to the approximately $800 million remaining from its 2007 stock repurchase authorization. The timing and volume of repurchases will be at the discretion of Boeing management over the next two to three years.
If you're worried that Boeing's dividend hike was too much, too fast, don't be. Boeing has a great track record with dividend increases, and this hike will only move its yield from 1.4% to roughly 2.1%. That will cost the company roughly $548 million per quarter, or nearly $2.2 billion per year.
While that's no chump change, Boeing can easily afford the updated dividend payout and share repurchase program. Consider that Boeing is sitting on $10 billion cash as of the third quarter, and nearly $16 billion when you add in marketable securities. That's not even considering the drastic improvement in Boeing's free cash flow over the last five years -- keep in mind 2013's figure below is for the first three quarters only.
Boeing's massive backlog of orders, focus on returning value to shareholders through dividend hikes and share repurchasing, and improving free cash flow offer plenty to be excited about. However, some investors are still worried Boeing's defense segment will drag it down amid massive federal budget cuts.
Don't worry about that, either.
It's easy to forget how much Boeing's commercial aircraft division really dominates its top and bottom lines because its defense segment receives a large amount of attention. The good news is that Boeing's commercial aircraft segment is very healthy and looks to have plenty of growth to overshadow a potential decline in its defense segment.
Consider that Boeing projects the world's commercial airline fleet to double in size over the next two decades. That's an addition of more than 35,000 new airplanes worth roughly $4.8 trillion -- a ridiculously huge chunk of change of which Boeing looks poised to grab more than its fair share.
While some investors let the looming government defense budget cuts, which could slash spending by as much as $1 trillion over the next nine years, scare them from owning Boeing shares, the company has a lot of momentum going forward. Management's move to increase the dividend so drastically and authorize $10 billion in share repurchases shows its confidence in the company's ability to fly higher.
Fool contributor Daniel Miller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.