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Boeing is a leading manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft, rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems. Headquartered in Chicago, Boeing employs more than 170,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries.
Boeing is organised into two business units: Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Supporting these units is Boeing Capital Corporation, the Shared Services Group and Boeing Engineering, Operations & Technology.
Boeing’s main commercial products are the B737, B747, B767 and B777 families of aircraft and the Boeing Business Jet. New product development efforts are focused on the B787 Dreamliner, 737Max, 777X and the B747-8. The company has nearly 12,000 commercial jetliners in service worldwide, which is roughly 75% of the world fleet.
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Lion Group significantly slowed its rate of expansion in 2016 and cancelled 21 Boeing 737 orders. The Indonesia-based airline group took 36 aircraft in 2016 compared to 57 aircraft in 2015, as the rate of 737 deliveries was slashed in half from an average of two per month to one per month.
Most of the growth in 2016 was at Lion Group’s two full service airlines, Indonesia’s Batik Air and Malaysia’s Malindo Air. Malindo expanded its fleet by a staggering 15 aircraft, for a total of 42, making it one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world. Batik expanded its fleet by eight aircraft in 2016, for a total of 41.
The rate of expansion slowed at all three of Lion Group’s low cost airlines – Lion Air, Thai Lion Air and the turboprop operator Wings Air. The fleet at the main Lion Air brand only expanded by three aircraft, while Wings added four turboprops. The group’s JV in Thailand added six aircraft, which was fewer aircraft than initially planned.
WestJet forges crucial deal with pilots for long haul expansion, but unionisation threat looms large
Canada’s second largest airline WestJet has eliminated uncertainty over its widebody expansion as 2016 has come to a close, reaching a deal with its pilots that allows the company to move forward in adding Boeing 767 widebodies to its fleet. The latest agreement follows a rejection of an earlier agreement by Westjet's pilots in Nov-2016, which placed in doubt the company’s ability to fully execute its long haul ambitions.
At the same time as pilots rejected the previous offer the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) was amping up efforts to unionise WestJet’s pilots. Independent entities have attempted to unionise the airline’s pilots in the past, but ALPA’s scale and resources offer a different level of heft to a potentially unionised workforce at WestJet.
Although WestJet can now move forward in crystallising its long haul strategy, the threat of unionisation among the company’s pilots and flight attendants looms large, and the airline could be a prime target for larger, more powerful unions.
Few would challenge the conclusion that Delta has one of the soundest balance sheets among US airlines. Its reductions in adjusted net debt and leverage ratios garnered their just rewards in 2016 when the company secured coveted investment-grade rating from Fitch and Moody’s.
During the time Delta has significantly improved its balance sheet metrics it has also steadily increased its shareholder rewards, and has reiterated its commitment to increasing dividends. The airline's position is that continuing to drive the importance of its dividend performance is a key component of the company’s valuation proposition.
Similarly to many other US airlines, Delta is facing unit cost inflation in 2017; but the company’s unit costs growth for the year should fall below 2016 levels. Those costs are inflated due to a new pilot contract that joins a number of new contracts that US airlines inked in 2016, which are resetting industry pay scales.
During the first of half of the decade Hawaiian Airlines’ business strategy was marked by significant long haul growth that required equally meaningful cash outlays. As a result, the company undertook significant borrowings and invested all of the cash that it generated back into the business.
Over the past two years Hawaiian’s growth has slowed, its long haul routes have matured and overall competitive dynamics in the airline’s markets have tilted in its favour. Those factors, along with others, have resulted in Hawaiian posting a robust financial performance. This has allowed Hawaiian to slash debt and improve its leverage, leading to a markedly stronger balance sheet.
Now Hawaiian is in a position to determine the optimal cash balances for its business. The company also continues to study allocation of its cash, but with a spike in capital expenditures in 2017 spurred by aircraft acquisitions Hawaiian is not gearing up for a massive change in shareholder returns.
The Thai Airways Group is determining a growth rate and assessing its aircraft needs for the medium to long term as part of a new five-year plan. The new plan should be completed by mid-2017 and may result in new narrowbody and widebody aircraft orders by the end of 2017.
Thai Airways is at an important juncture with its fleet as it has only 12 outstanding aircraft orders, all of which will be delivered in 2017 and 2018. The group currently does not have any commitments for additional narrowbody aircraft, which are needed to continue pursuing regional international growth at its full service subsidiary Thai Smile in line with its current multi-brand strategy.
New widebody aircraft are also required for growth and replacements, starting with its ageing 747-400 fleet. The group’s widebody passenger fleet will increase from 72 to 77 aircraft by the end of 2017, partially offsetting recent reductions in the fleet.
It may seem surprising that Asia's oldest aircraft fleet is operated by Cathay Dragon, part of the Cathay Pacific Group that is one of Asia's historically blue-chip, but now challenged, aviation companies. Cathay, according to the South China Morning Post, is midway through an RFP to acquire 23 next-generation narrowbody aircraft from 2019. Meanwhile its local rival HK Express has already received its first A320neo.
Cathay Dragon operates 42 passenger aircraft, including 23 narrowbodies with an average fleet age of 12.6 years. The A330s – including the world's oldest – push average fleet age to 14.5 years, the highest of major Asian airlines. The A320s alone would still be the oldest fleet; Korean Air has the second oldest fleet, but at a younger 9.8 years.
The aircraft order is overdue and Cathay missed an opportunity five to ten years ago to grow a larger footprint in mainland China. Now the Singapore Airlines Group – thanks to narrowbodies and LCCs – serves more Chinese cities than Cathay does in its own backyard. Although it is a buyer's market for new aircraft these are precarious times at Cathay, whose fiery unions lack confidence in management spending and direction. As Cathay restructures it appears that inevitably staff will have to make salary sacrifices, further challenging how to communicate the necessity of long term investments.