A lot has changed in the past 30 to 45 days. After having gone from an 11-year bull market to a roaring bear market, every business in America is now in trouble if they are not supplying the basic goods needed for society or do not have a role fighting the coronavirus. Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) has gone from a healthy company trying to recover from its 737 Max woes to a company in which every single one of its customers is now fiscally struggling with no operational help on the horizon.
When analysts on Wall Street upgrade and downgrade stocks around bad news, it can sometimes offer great insight. Some calls can also have many pitfalls. The independent research firm Argus upgraded its Hold rating on Boeing to Buy on Friday, March 27.
After Boeing stock significantly underperformed over the past quarter (down about 45%, compared with a 23% drop in the S&P 500), the wild ride from $89 a share and back up saw it nearly double in less than a week when investors have had to respond to numerous developments and news items (see below).
Argus has tried to normalize its outlook, and the firm assigned a $220 target price for Boeing that is based on a 13-times earnings multiple of its 2021 per-share earnings estimate. Investors should understand that all estimates for 2020 are probably close to impossible to get accurate, but a blend of a bad 2020 and what things looked like in 2019 might be where these are starting.
John Eade of Argus said:
Boeing is the largest aerospace and defense company in our coverage universe, and we think it has superior long-term prospects due to its significant backlog and strong presence in the growing commercial aerospace industry, which has been recently shut down by the coronavirus. Further, its profitable Defense segment is a Top 5 Defense contractor. The company faces numerous near-term challenges, including the spread of Covid-19, which has led the company to suspend production in its Washington facility; the potential return to service of its Max 737 jet, which appears to be only a few months away; and cash flow issues.
As for a turnaround under its new CEO, Boeing shares are still down almost 60% from their all-time highs back in early 2019. They are also down by about half since Argus downgraded Boeing in March 2019. Eade further said:
In the past week, as numerous developments have taken place, they are up 100%. Given the positive 737 MAX production developments as well as the value now present after the sharp stock price decline, we think a Buy rating is once again warranted.
As far as the developments and news items that the company faces right now:
- Congress and the president are close to signing a federal rescue package of at least $60 billion in aid for Boeing and its suppliers.
- Boeing told reporters that it is planning to restart 737 Max production by May, and it still expects that U.S. regulators will clear the plane to return to flying by mid-year.
- Operations at the Puget Sound production facilities have been suspended, and that is expected to last 14 days.
- Boeing drew down a $13.8 billion credit agreement last month.
- Boeing has suspended its dividend and all share buybacks to preserve cash.
- CEO Dave Calhoun and Chairman Larry Kellner will work for free through the end of the year.
We have been waiting for some clarity on when the 737 MAX will be returning to the skies before returning the shares to the Buy list. Given the production developments as well as the value now present after the sharp stock price decline, we think a Buy rating is warranted.
Boeing stock traded down by just over $20 (11.4%) at $160.00 on Friday morning. The Dow Jones industrial average down 3.8%, and the S&P 500 was down 3.3% on the day.
24/7 Wall St. has the same guidance and notice for any reports, whether they are independent or from the sell-side. No single analyst report should be used as a sole decision to buy or sell any shares, as there are many other issues to consider.