Boeing investors seek answers after latest 737 production glitch

By Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing Co is expected to reveal whether the latest 737 MAX manufacturing problem will derail the U.S. plane maker’s annual goals for passenger jet deliveries and free cash flow when it unveils its first quarter financial results on Wednesday.

Investors are clamoring for details on the extent of the problem, which Boeing said involves a “significant” portion of the 737 fleet where two brackets were improperly installed.

Analysts said the manufacturing problem isn’t a showstopper for the MAX, as it’s not a safety issue and in-service jets have continued to fly. But Wall Street has received little information from Boeing on its plan to fix the problem and the overall financial impact.

“I’d like to have some numbers and some scale of the materiality of this, whether it affects deliveries, cash flow and all the rest,” Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Stallard said. “It’s unfortunately just one of many issues that Boeing seems to stumble into on a regular basis.”

The biggest question is whether Boeing will update its 2023 financial guidance, which calls for it to deliver at least 400 737 MAXs and generate $3 billion to $5 billion in free cash flow this year. Both goals may still be achievable, said J.P. Morgan analyst Seth Seifman.

“Boeing gave a fairly wide range for the amount of cash flow they expect for the year, and there are a lot of levers to impact cash throughout the company,” said Seifman, who said it would be “surprising” if the company were unable to meet its goal.

While it’s “more likely” that Boeing would lower 737 MAX delivery projections, the company has already delivered 111 MAXs in its first quarter — typically the slowest financial quarter of the year — and could meet its annual goal so long as rework can be accomplished quickly, Seifman said.

Investors may also press Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun about the number of MAXs impacted by the problem, the cost and timeline for a fix.

Calhoun said last week that Boeing will not revise current plans to increase MAX production this summer. However, the company has slowed 737 MAX deliveries, and the resulting delivery delay will remove approximately 9,000 seats from airlines’ summer schedules.

Due to a 767 fuel tank flaw, Boeing is also expected to disclose a new charge on the KC-46 tanker program estimated to be less than $500 million.

(Reporting by Valerie Insinna in Washington; Editing by Nick Zieminski)