Production and sales of Boeing Company’s (NYSE:BAA) jumbo 747 jet have been in decline in recent years. Does this mean the giant plane, known mostly for hump-backed fuselage, is destined for the aircraft boneyard?
Over the past year or so, depending on who you ask, the answer is sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”
Freight Revival Underway
Back in April 2015 then Boeing CEO, Jim McNerney, responding to growing pessimism about the 747’s future thanks to shrinking freight shipments, noted that the global air cargo market was beginning to rebound.
McNerney said, “We actually have a pretty good pipeline right now of cargo discussions going on. It’s premature to say we’re at the end of the program. I don’t think we are at all.”
At that time with airfreight volume rising in the double digits, McNerney noted that the increase in shipments would ultimately require new airplanes. Said McNerney, “So, I’m feeling better about it.”
Amazon Enters The Market
When Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZNC) made a splash with a self-branded “Prime Air” Boeing 767-300 this past August, some observers wondered aloud if the e-commerce giant might eventually graduate to 747s for international shipping routes.
If so, the buys could boost sales for Boeing and help revive the giant airplane’s chances for a second wind. So far no 747s have joined Amazon’s tiny fleet, expected to be around 40 aircraft within the next 2 years.
A Real Move By UPSThursday marked the first sign of real help for Boeing when United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPSC) said it had ordered 14 Boeing 747-8 cargo jets worth about $5.3 billion at list price.
The order from UPS, including options for 14 more planes, illustrates the resurgence in freight by former Boeing CEO McNerney, is real or at least real enough to keep 747s airborne for the foreseeable future.
Although similar sized 2-engine aircraft are more fuel efficient than the 747, the 747 has a huge advantage with its unique hinged nose that makes it possible to carry large cargo.
Wall Street’s uncertainty about the future of the 747 translates to questions about the company as a whole. News about the UPS order is expected to improve sentiment. Just how much is not yet known.
Boeing shares Thursday opened at $145.83 and closed down $2.23 or -1.53% at 143.31. The stock has a perform rating and “Buy” recommendations from both Zack’s and TipRanks.
Jim Cramer’s TheStreet, noting that Boeing reported better-than-anticipated 2016 third quarter earnings and revenue and raised its outlook for the full year Wednesday, also pointed out that Credit Suisse raised its price target on Boeing stock to $152 from $148 Thursday.
TheStreet rated Boeing stock as a “hold.”