April 23, 2014 / 11:50 AM / in 4 years

Boeing posts higher adjusted profit, raises 2014 forecast

(Reuters) - Rising jet production helped Boeing Co post a 14 percent rise in adjusted net profit in the first quarter, beating estimates, and the company notched up its full-year forecast.

A 787 Dreamliner being built for India Air is pictured at South Carolina Boeing final assembly building in North Charleston, South Carolina December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Randall Hill

On a non-adjusted basis, however, Boeing’s profit slid 13 percent to $965 million, or $1.28 per share, down from $1.11 billion, or $1.44 per share, a year earlier, the company reported on Wednesday.

But analysts pointed to strong cashflow generation and Boeing’s increase in share buy-backs in the quarter as reasons to push the stock higher.

They also saw widening operating profit margins to 11.8 percent in Boeing’s commercial aircraft business as a sign of strength, even though the backlog of orders slipped from the beginning of the year.

Boeing shares were up 2.7 percent to $131.00 in pre-market trading.

Investors had been worried that Boeing’s free cash flow might be hit by a build-up of inventory of 787 planes, following production snags at its South Carolina assembly plant. But the company reported $615 million in free cash flow for the quarter, above the $545 million forecast by RBC Capital Markets.

“We think investors will be breathing a sigh of relief,” on free cash flow, said Rob Stallard, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, in a note. “The actual result has turned out far better than some feared.”

Revenue at the world’s biggest plane maker rose 8 percent to $20.47 billion in the quarter ended March 31 from $18.89 billion a year earlier.

Core earnings, which exclude some pension and other costs, rose to $1.76 per share from $1.73 a year ago. But the increase was 14 percent after excluding a one-time gain of 19 cents a share for a research and development tax credit booked in 2013.

For 2014, the company lifted its core earnings forecast to between $7.15 per share and $7.35 per share, up from the prior forecast of between $7.00 and $7.20.

The increase reflects a tax settlement gain to be taken in the second quarter, and Boeing left 2014 forecasts for revenue, operating cash flow and deliveries unchanged.

Boeing’s adjusted earnings included a $334 million charge from retirement plan changes in the first quarter for moving non-union employees to defined contribution plan savings plan from a defined benefit plan. The move takes place in 2016.

The first quarter results reflected a weak comparison with a year ago, when Boeing delivered just one 787 Dreamliner in the first quarter of 2013. Deliveries were halted that month after two incidents in which batteries on the planes burned, prompting regulators to ground the global Dreamliner fleet for three months.

As a result, commercial airplane deliveries rose nearly 18 percent to 161 in the latest quarter, up from 137 a year ago.

The number, which was previously reported, was higher than some analysts’ forecasts and reflected increasing production rates for Boeing’s best-selling 737 jetliner and its high-tech 787 Dreamliner.

Analysts had notched back their outlook for Boeing’s earnings in the quarter after a conservative full year forecast in January.

But Boeing’s core earnings of $1.76 per share were well ahead of the $1.56 mean estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Sweta Singh and Alwyn Scott; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Sofina Mirza-Reid

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