Boeing profits take off again

US PLANEMAKER Boeing posted higher profits despite the global downturn in air travel, but was cautious about prospects in 2010.

The Chicago-based group yesterday reported fourth quarter net income of $1.27bn (£784m), up from a loss of $86m in the same period a year ago caused partly by industrial action. Sales rose 42 per cent to $17.9bn against $12.6bn in the same period a year ago.

Boeing said it ended a difficult year on a high note with the first flight of its long-delayed 787 Dreamliner, reiterating plans to deliver the first 787 in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Fewer orders for aircraft dogged Boeing and European rival Airbus in 2009 as airlines grappled with falling demand in the sagging economy. Meanwhile, the company’s defence unit struggled with sweeping government budget cuts.

Boeing forecasted 2010 earnings per share of $3.70-$4, reflecting slower 777 production and reduced scope on Army modernisation and missile defence programmes. Wall Street analysts expected the company to earn $4.26 per share in 2010 on revenue of $65.42bn.

It pledged to focus in 2010 on technical approval and deliveries of its 787 and its extended 747 jumbo jet and to overhaul its defence, space and security business, which posted lower quarterly earnings.

Chief executive Jim McNerney said Boeing generated “solid core operating performance” in 2009.

“While the challenges ahead are significant, I believe we have the people and the resources we need to succeed and to begin consistently delivering on this company’s great potential,” he said.