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Boeing deliveries rose to 121 planes in first quarter

Boeing Co.

Boeing Co. said airplane deliveries rose 5.2 percent from a year earlier to 121 in the first quarter as the world’s second-largest commercial-plane builder benefited from airlines seeking more fuel-efficient jets.

Boeing also had 28 new orders and 32 cancellations from January through March, ending the quarter with a net decline of four orders, the Chicago-based company said today. There were 115 shipments a year earlier, according to its Web site.

Deliveries, which are when Boeing gets paid, are set to rise this year to 480 to 485 aircraft and to remain stable through at least mid-2010, the company has said. Boeing is studying production rates for next year as the recession weakens travel demand and tightens financing options, forcing carriers to cancel or defer orders. Airbus SAS, the only larger planemaker, said today it’s targeting 483 deliveries this year.

For Boeing, 121 airplane deliveries in the first quarter “are not bad numbers given the bad economy,” Michel Merluzeau, aviation analyst at G2 Solutions in Kirkland, Washington, said in an interview. “They look like backlog-related and financed in the past. I wouldn’t expect these numbers to prolong into the later part of the year.”

The planemaker is working to return to its growth plan after shipments dropped 15 percent to 375 last year because of a two-month machinists’ strike that idled factories in the Seattle-area manufacturing hub.

Boeing rose $1.76, or 5 percent, to $37.20 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 52 percent in the past year.

Model Shipments

Boeing shipped 23 777s, its most profitable model, as well as four 747 jumbo jets, three 767s and 91 of its 737s, the world’s most widely flown commercial plane, the company said in a statement today.

All 32 of the first-quarter cancellations were previously reported and were for Boeing’s delayed 787 Dreamliner. Boeing aims to fly the 787 for the first time by the end of June and ship the first aircraft in early 2010.

Compared with Boeing’s 668 net order last year, the first- quarter order of 28 aircraft is “abysmal” and likely means 200 to 300 orders for this year, Merluzeau said. A low order book this year would mean weaker deliveries in 2010 and 2011, he said.

Airline Replacements

Boeing’s commercial-airplane chief, Scott Carson, last month said carriers still are seeking new planes to replace less fuel-efficient models, even if they are reluctant to expand. The company could cut output by about 10 percent next year if the air-travel market deteriorates further, he said.

Continental Airlines Inc. in October delayed until 2011 and beyond the deliveries of 16 Boeing 737s that were to start this year. AMR Corp.’s American Airlines is adding 68 Boeing 737-800s to its fleet this year and next to replace aging, less fuel- efficient MD-80s. Southwest Airlines Co. is adding 13 737s to its fleet this year.

Some airlines plan to take advantage of the anticipated decline in orders to get better prices. Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said last August the company may order as many as 200 airplanes to benefit from lower prices. Ryanair is Europe’s biggest discount airline.

Airbus anticipates that deliveries may drop as much as 15 percent next year in a worst-case scenario before picking up again in 2011, the company’s chief salesman told analysts today.

A target of 483 deliveries this year should still be achieved, John Leahy, who is also chief operating officer, said today in a presentation to analysts, according to two people present at the briefing in Broughton, north Wales.

For the first three months, Airbus won 8 orders, net of cancellations, according to today’s presentation. That compares with a net intake of minus 8 through February, resulting from 14 cancellations and just six new orders.