Despite headaches with Boeing's (NYSE:BA) 787 Dreamliner for travelers and investors alike, there's no question the company soared in 2013 -- up nearly 80% last year. The aviation juggernaut isn't planning to take a breather in 2014 either, and it's kicked off the year with three big headlines.
On Monday, Boeing announced a commitment from Air Algerie for eight next-generation 737-800 airplanes, a deal worth $724 million at list prices. Boeing's 737 family continues to be the most technologically advanced single-aisle airplane family, and investors cheer the airplane for its market base, superior efficiency, and low operating costs. All of which is good news considering the growth Boeing expects to see in the segment over the next 20 years.
Investors received another positive note from Boeing on Monday when it announced that its largest single-aisle airplane order in the Middle East was finalized. The order from flydubai is for 75 737-MAX 8s and 11 next-generation 737-800s. Those total up to a value of $8.8 billion at list prices, and flydubai retains purchase rights for an additional 25 737 MAXs. As the rest of Boeing's orders from the 2013 Dubai Airshow are finalized, expect to see Boeing's already gigantic order backlog of $415 billion to reach nearly half a trillion. As that happens, 2014 will be an important year for the company to begin ramping up production on its aircraft and improve deliveries to customers and value to shareholders.
Speaking of increasing deliveries in 2014, Boeing closed out 2013 by setting a record for the most commercial airplanes delivered in a single year: 648. Considering Boeing posted company records for deliveries, as well as for unfilled commercial orders, it's no wonder investors were ready to jump into the stock, sending it 80% higher in 2013.
Last year, three programs set records for deliveries. Boeing's 737 program delivered 440 next-generation 737s and its 777 program delivered nearly 100 airplanes. Finally, despite major headaches and doom and gloom headlines, the 787 Dreamliner program delivered 65 airplanes.
"The year ahead will be exciting as we prepare to deliver the first 787-9, continue the design work on our newest programs -- the 737 MAX, 787-10 and 777X -- while increasing our production rates on the 737," said Boeing commercial airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner in a press release. "We'll remain focused on meeting our customer commitments by delivering the best products and services."
On the dotted line
Investors are all hoping to avoid the production delays, problems, and budget overruns seen with Boeing's 787 program as the company looks to begin production of its 777X program. Currently, Boeing's Everett, Wash., plant is producing much of the 777 family. However, the company threatened to take away at least part of the production if the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers union failed to agree to its new contract extension.
The biggest point of controversy on Boeing's new contract offer is that it replaced a pension-like retirement plan with a 401(k) contribution plan. There was much turmoil among union workers about whether they should to try and keep the pension plan at the risk of losing their jobs. The first vote in November rejected Boeing's offer -- 67% of the union voted against the proposal. The workers wanted their pensions, Washington state wanted to secure thousands of jobs, Boeing wanted to cut its pension obligations while customers and investors wanted to make sure production was secured with an experienced workforce that would lead to on-time deliveries.
Politicians close to the development commented that Boeing had said that if last Friday's vote rejected the proposal, it would at the very least take the wing production of its 777X out of Washington state, with the final assembly yet to be determined.
For investors, it's a problem that won't need to be digested as Friday's vote narrowly passed Boeing's new proposal by a 51% to 49% margin. This removes a big uncertainty for investors and also assures Boeing that the machinists' union won't strike until 2024.
Boeing has a lot of momentum carrying it from 2013 into the new year. What's more, it can offer revenue transparency that few companies can on a giant backlog of orders valued between $415 billion and $500 billion, depending on when recent orders are finalized. It's also substantially increased its dividend by 50% to $0.73 per share, and has authorized an additional $10 billion for the company's share repurchase program. The company may not produce an 80% appreciation in share price in 2014, but Boeing has a long track record of delivering shareholder value through multiple avenues -- don't expect that to reverse this year.