How Boeing and Airbus Stack Up Before Earnings

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Both Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and arch-rival Airbus are scheduled to report third-quarter results before U.S. markets open Wednesday morning. Neither has had a particularly strong first three quarters writing new orders, and both have experienced some delivery delays resulting from delays to an engine fix (Airbus) and supplier problems delivering aircraft interiors (both Boeing and Airbus).

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect Airbus to post adjusted EBIT of $759 million, down sharply from $1 billion in the year-ago quarter. Revenues are expected to rise from $15.35 billion to $15.55 billion.

Boeing’s expected earnings per share (EPS) comes to $2.62, up from $2.52 a year ago, and revenues are estimated to fall from $25.8 billion in the third quarter of 2015 to $23.6 billion.

Boeing’s new 737 MAX narrow-body commercial jets are expected to enter service as early as March of 2017. Airbus delivered its competitor, the A320neo, in January, but problems with the Pratt & Whitney geared turbo-fan engine have slowed deliveries to a trickle.

In the wide-body market, Boeing recently took an order for 10 777s, but it is still short of its goal of 40 to 50 a year needed to maintain production at current levels. We don’t expect an announcement of a production cut because the company is likely going to have to write down some costs on its CST-100 space capsule. That’s too much bad news for the quarter.

Airbus has shipped less than half the number of wide-body A350s it had originally forecast for the year, but the company insists that it will still reach its forecast level of 50 for the full year. Interior supplier Zodiac is shouldering the blame for the delays.

Several analysts have weighed in on Boeing’s results, and Buckingham Research pretty well sums up the bear case for the stock:

The frustration among investors is that sentiment remains negative, BA has lowered numbers throughout 2016, is hinting at further volume reductions, yet the negative thesis hasn’t worked post Boeing reporting 4Q15 results in January. That’s likely because very little BA has said after January has altered investor FCF [free cash flow] forecasts. We think that could change, however, after 3Q16 as we expect several headwinds to drive consensus FCF estimates lower including: slowing advances, 777X inventory build, lower than expected 777 production rates and the [commercial aircraft division’s] margin impact, 787 cash taxes, and the increasing potential that weak pricing and slowing orders may not allow BA to recognize the entire $28B of 787 deferred production. We see 10%/(30)% upside/downside risk in our best/worst case scenarios.

Buckingham maintains a Neutral rating on the stock with a price target of just $103.

The equity team at S&P recently maintained its Buy rating on the stock, along with a $172 target price ahead of earnings. Their upside thesis:

We see price appreciation over the next several years as commercial aircraft demand remains strong, B787 and B737 production ramps, cash returns to shareholders rise via increased stock repurchases and dividends, pension headwinds diminish and additional B787 and B777X orders drive a reacceleration in BA’s wide-body aircraft orders. While we remain concerned about a drag from defense as U.S. defense spending slows, the operation’s size relative to the commercial business, strong cost control performance and sizable international exposure will help moderate this headwind, we think.

Risks to our opinion and target price include slowing global economic growth, incremental U.S. defense budget pressures, military contract losses and delays and cost overruns in bringing new aircraft to market and ramping production.

JPMorgan has a Neutral rating and a $152 price target. The analysts updated their model for third-quarter deliveries and estimate adjusted EPS estimate for the quarter at $2.70. The full-year estimate is unchanged at $6.45. The firm’s investment thesis and risks were noted as follows:

We rate BA Neutral based on concerns about the profitability of the commercial aero business, growth in the defense business, 787 cash flow, and market concerns around aircraft demand that might cap valuation. However, Boeing remains a leading and entrenched player in its industry with solid cash flow and a reasonable valuation. In addition, we do not expect aircraft demand to roll over imminently.

Downside risks to our rating include a failure to lower 787 unit costs, a decline in demand for new aircraft, worse than expected execution on core commercial programs, and a greater-than-expected decline in defense earnings. Upside risks are stronger than expected aircraft demand, better than expected BCA margins, and outsized cash profitability on the 787 program.

Earlier in October, Jefferies reiterated its Buy rating and $165 price target. The analysts said:

There is a reasonably good investment case for Boeing. We believe the company understands that it needs to drive productivity and to hit development milestones. While civil orders have been slow year-to-date, recent progress with customers demonstrates that the current product is attractive. Cash Flow and EPS growth create an attractive valuation.

Merrill Lynch has an Underperform rating on the stock and a $125 price objective.

Airbus shares closed down 2.6% in Paris Tuesday at €53.39 (about $58.12), in a 52-week range of €48.07 to €68.50. The 12-month price target on the stock is €69.80.

Boeing stock traded up about 0.9% in the early afternoon, at $138.74 in a 52-week range of $102.10 to $150.59. The 12-month price target is $148.71.