Boeing 737 Backlog Jumps on New Orders

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Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) added 58 737s to its order book on Tuesday, bringing the total number of new orders for its single-aisle plane to 358 net for the year. The company did not name the buyer or buyers, adding the orders to its “Unidentified Customers” line item. Boeing’s total backlog for its 737 family of planes is now 4,485.

One may be forgiven for linking the announcement to the Tuesday announcement of Boeing’s win in a trade case against Canada’s Bombardier over the sale of 75 Bombardier CS100 single-aisle planes to Delta Air Lines Co. (NYSE: DAL). The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Department of Commerce recommended a countervailing duty (tariff) of nearly 220% on each of the planes citing several incentives and payments to Bombardier to aid in launching and building the CS100.

Boeing had sought a tariff of around 79%, which would have been enough to severely limit if not end U.S. sales of the CS100.

While the odds are that the unidentified orders are coming from the usual suspects — leasing firms and Chinese airlines — the orders could be coming from U.S. airlines that had waited to see how the ITC ruled on the trade case.

Adding a 220% tariff to a CS100 could effectively kill the plane’s U.S. sales. Boeing had estimated that Bombardier sold the new planes to Delta for around $19.6 million each, a price the airline called “millions too low.” Boeing estimated that the CS100 costs $33 million to manufacture. The difference between the manufacturing cost and the sales price, about $12.7 million in this case, is the dumping cost.

Aerospace research firm Leeham News noted two issues with the calculation:

The first is that the Delta deal didn’t happen until after Bombardier’s financial restructuring, which included billions of dollars of write-offs for the program. [We] estimated this shaved about $5m of its cost basis.

Secondly, any airplanes now certainly cost more to produce than the sales price due to the ramp up in production and the learning curve.

The second point means that the cost to build an early version of the CS100 is higher than the cost to build a plane after technicians have figured out how to do it. Boeing is playing games here.

Boeing has just four unfilled orders for the 737-700, compared to 479 unfilled orders for the larger 737-800. The company has been working to move customers to the 737-800 and has not delivered a new 737-700 to a customer since October 2016. The 737-700 seats 126 to 149 passengers, the 737-800 seats around 162 to 189 and the Bombardier CS100 seats 110 to 125.