(Bloomberg) — Boeing Co. tumbled after paring its annual forecast for deliveries of its 737 narrowbody jets and disclosing that it may discontinue the smallest and largest “Max” versions of the workhorse should those models fail to win government safety approvals.
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In a securities filing, Boeing said it may discontinue the 737 Max-7 and -10 variants if a looming deadline is not extended and “we otherwise fail to achieve certification.” That echoed comments earlier this year by Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun.
The disclosure came after Chief Financial Officer Brian West gave a lowered delivery target for 737 aircraft, saying the planemaker now expects to hand over 375 of the jetliners this year. Boeing had previously targeted deliveries of close to 500 before lowering the goal in July to the “low 400s.”
The manufacturer signaled that it won’t be speeding up work on the cash-cow aircraft anytime soon, even as demand surges for fuel-efficient workhorse jets favored by budget airlines. Boeing expects the 737 monthly production rate to stay in the low 30s through much of next year, but output should rise sharply during the closing months, West said on a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.
Read more: $2.9 billion cash gain softens blow of earnings miss
The shares erased early gains to slide 9.2% at 2:46 p.m. in New York, the worst performance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the steepest one-day slide since June 13. The stock has lost about 34% of its value this year.
Congress late in 2020 passed a law requiring that all jetliners have more modern alerting systems than those on existing 737s, but it gave Boeing two years to finalize certification of its remaining two Max models, the 7 and the 10. However, it appears the company won’t complete work on either plane before the deadline at the end of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has warned in recent months.
So far, Congress hasn’t moved to extend the deadline.
The reduced expectations underscore the deep operations issues at Boeing, which also disclosed $2.8 billion in losses on a handful of defense programs. It’s contending with inflation, parts shortages and labor shortfalls that have disrupted supply chains around the globe.
Still, Boeing’s gloomy assessment of the flow of Leap engines to its 737 Max assembly lines contradicted with the picture painted by General Electric Co. a day earlier. CFM International, a GE-Safran SA venture, handed over 347 engines in the third quarter, a more than 50% improvement from the second quarter.
GE had dispatched about 200 engineers in the most recent period to help tackle bottlenecks that had constrained output of the engine powering both the 737 Max and Airbus A320neo. The company said further improvements would be needed to support Boeing and Airbus plans to boost production rates.
“I don’t buy engines as the limiting factor” for Boeing’s output, said George Ferguson, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. He noted that Airbus was delivering at a higher rate, suggesting Boeing may be dealing with additional operational issues.
Earlier Wednesday, Boeing reported an adjusted loss of $6.18 a share in the third quarter, its fifth consecutive earnings miss, as the defense unit faced cost overruns on its KC-46 aerial tanker, Air Force One and other military contracts. Sales of $16 billion also fell short of analysts’ estimates.
Still, its free cash flow of $2.9 billion was well above expectations, marking just the second time Boeing has generated positive cash since Calhoun took the top job in early 2020.
–With assistance from Alan Levin.
(Updates with additional details in second paragraph)
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