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A Troubled Boeing Inches Closer to Takeoff

The U.S. plane maker reported wider losses due to problems with its 787 Dreamliner, but also turned cash-flow positive for the first time since 2019

Deliveries of Boeing’s popular 787 Dreamliner slowed to a trickle last year due to a raft of factory defects.

Boeing’s glass still looks half empty, but there are signs of change.

On Wednesday, the plane maker said it lost $4 billion in the fourth quarter—half the size of the hit for the same period of 2020 but much larger than Wall Street analysts were forecasting. Even as Boeing overcame its problems with the 737 MAX, deliveries of the popular 787 Dreamliner slowed to a trickle last year due to a raft of factory defects. This forced the company to record a $3.5 billion charge for compensating customers, plus $285 million in abnormal production costs that are forecast to eventually add up to $2 billion. This is twice what was initially expected.

Yet the company also surprised analysts with a long-awaited milestone: For the first time since 2019, it had positive free cash flow. Boeing’s value in the futures market whipsawed as investors weren’t sure whether to interpret the results as good or bad overall, but they settled clearly on “bad” when the stock market opened.

For valuing aerospace stocks, free cash flow is often preferred to earnings themselves, because calculating the profitability of businesses that depend on hugely costly product launches can be more art than science. In Boeing’s case, extra 787 expenses are having an immediate impact on quarterly earnings, even though the company isn’t spending all the money right away. Cash probably gives a more accurate picture of the underlying business.

Excerpt from WSJ
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Boeing Dreamliner Defects Bog Down Production

Plane maker further slows production as door-area issue proves difficult to address, delaying deliveries and complicating airlines’ plans

Boeing Co. has further slowed production of 787 Dreamliners as it addresses defects that are delaying deliveries of new jets and complicating airlines’ plans, people familiar with the matter said.

The plane maker is holding off completing the new wide-body jets at its North Charleston, S.C., factory as workers and engineers address problems related to areas surrounding passenger and cargo doors on aircraft already under construction, these people said.

The latest production slowdown began in recent days and could last a few weeks as Boeing seeks expertise from other aerospace manufacturers in addressing the door issue, some of these people said. In late October, Boeing disclosed it was producing about two Dreamliners a month, down from a planned monthly rate of five, to resolve production issues.

A string of production snafus has hampered Boeing’s ability to deliver new Dreamliners for much of the last year, fueling the manufacturer’s financial losses and making it difficult for airlines to build schedules for jets often used in international travel. The plane maker has faced increased scrutiny internally, by air-safety regulators and lawmakers after two of its 737 MAX jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, claiming 346 lives.

A Boeing spokeswoman said work continues at its Dreamliner factory and production “rates will continue to be dynamic” as the manufacturer focuses on resuming normal assembly, performs inspections and repairs finished aircraft awaiting delivery.

Excerpt from WSJ
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Latam Airlines Nears Chapter 11 Deal With Creditors Amid Rival’s Merger Push

The Chilean airline is close to a restructuring deal to remain a stand-alone company after bankruptcy, as rival Azul tries to build creditor support for a tie-up

Latam Airlines Group SA is close to launching a chapter 11 exit strategy backed by some unsecured creditors as it vies to fend off a competitor’s efforts to build support for a proposed business combination, people familiar with the matter said.

The Chilean airline is nearing a restructuring deal with large unsecured creditors and certain shareholders that revolves around an equity sale to recapitalize the business and ease an exit from bankruptcy, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Latam’s plan, if approved, would also fend off merger overtures from Brazilian peer Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras SA, which has been pushing to combine the two companies. Azul isn’t giving up and has been seeking buy-in from Latam bondholders for an alternative restructuring premised on a tie-up, people familiar with the matter said.

Excerpt from WSJ
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Private Flying Takes Off, Boosting Demand for Business Jets

Some well-heeled, would-be private-jet fliers are being turned away as industry booms

A boom in private flying is helping revive business-jet sales, but it is also challenging charter operators who are scrambling to meet the holiday-travel rush.

After a multiyear slump, flying by private jet is soaring again. The number of flights in the U.S. over the Thanksgiving travel period is forecast to be up as much as 10% from 2019, according to WingX. Private-jet flights were up 60% in the first half of November compared with a year earlier, the data tracker said.

The boom comes after a long, fallow period since the global financial crisis. The more than 495,000 private-jet flights in the first 10 months of the year is up 9% from the same period in 2019, and just ahead of the previous high in 2007, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Demand has risen during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks in part to fliers’ desire to avoid crowded commercial planes and airports, as well as cuts in airline service to smaller communities. The increased availability of on-demand private-jet services also has helped.

Excerpt from WSJ
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