Boeing Nabs Share of Lufthansa Order, but Can It Deliver?

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Deutsche Lufthansa announced Thursday morning that it had ordered 59 new aircraft to replace existing planes in its fleet. The big order was split between Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), which will provide 34 of its 777-9Xs to the German carrier, and the European Aeronautics Defense & Space Co., which will deliver 25 of its Airbus A350-900s. The total value of the deal is €14 billion (nearly $19 billion) at list prices.

Lufthansa plans to replace its older 747-400s and Airbus A340-300s by 2025 with the new planes. The first delivery of the planes ordered today is scheduled for 2016. That is several years before Boeing expects to have the 777-9X in service.

Boeing’s 777-9X is scheduled for launch later this year, and the company expects the plane to enter into service around the end of the decade. The plane’s capacity is about 400 seats. Boeing claims it will be the most efficient twin-engine commercial jet in the world and offer the lowest operating cost per seat of any commercial plane. It will have new engines, and its wings will be manufactured from composites.

The obvious question is whether Boeing can deliver the new planes anywhere near the proposed schedule. The 777-9X is not off the drawing board yet, and Lufthansa cannot really expect Boeing to deliver a new plane in just three years. We have seen one report that Boeing has offered Lufthansa a version of the company’s 747-8 aircraft at steep discounts to its list price of around $356 million as an “interim” solution.

The Airbus A350-900 is already in test flights and could enter service as soon as the second half of next year. Airbus has been positioning one iteration of this aircraft as a competitor to the newly announced Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner.

As with all orders for new airplanes, this one makes for a good news story, but the impact on the company’s revenues will not be felt for years. Investors will price in these orders today and then move on, waiting for the inevitable blunders and delays along the way to chip away at the price boost.

Boeing’s shares are up about 1.2% in Thursday premarket trading at $119.80, above the stock’s 52-week range of $69.03 to $119.52.