Late Wednesday, Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) released its order totals through December 22, adding a total of 166 net new orders and bringing its net total for 2015 to 743 passenger jets. The announced orders for December included only planes in the company’s 737 family of single-aisle, narrow-body planes.
Delta Air Lines ordered 20, Jet2.com ordered two and the remaining 143 orders were attributed to unidentified customers. A week ago Boeing announced an agreement with China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (NYSE: ZNH) for 50 of the current 737s and 60 of the new 737 MAX jets, including 30 of the new planes for China Southern subsidiary, Xiamen Airlines. At the time Boeing said the orders would be added to the order book once they were confirmed. It’s possible that has happened and the customer still wished to remain anonymous.
Possible but unlikely. Boeing’s order book shows four unfilled orders for China Southern and five for Xiamen at the end of November, so a desire for anonymity is not likely.
Boeing’s target for new plane deliveries in 2015 is 750 to 755, and the company also has targeted a book-to-bill ratio of 1 for the year. Through November, Boeing has delivered 709 new commercial planes in 2015, and in November alone the company delivered 71 new jets. Unless production slows in December, deliveries to customers could surpass the target by up to 20 new planes, and new firm orders are not exactly thick on the ground.
In 2014 Boeing delivered a total of 723 new commercial planes, an all-time record for any aircraft maker. The company will certainly break that record this year.
A record-breaking year for deliveries should help Boeing deliver on its promise of generating $9 billion in free cash flow in 2015. That’s the number Boeing wants investors to pay attention to. That number is within reach: free cash flow for the first three-quarters of the year totaled $4.42 billion, according to YCharts. In the fourth quarter of 2014, Boeing piled up $4.33 billion in free cash flow by pulling some payments forward, and there is a fair chance the company will have to do that again.
Boeing’s stock closed at $144.06 on Wednesday, up about 1.2%, in a 52-week range of $115.14 to $158.83.
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