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Boeing profit falls 12.7% but it tops analyst forecasts

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Boosted by strong sales, Boeing Co. beat analysts' estimates for its first quarter largely because of faster production of commercial jetliners.

The Chicago aerospace giant reported a profit of $965 million, or $1.28 a share. That's down 12.7% from $1.11 billion, or $1.44 a share, a year earlier.

Boeing attributed the fall to a $330-million write-off related to changes in its pension plans and a one-time tax credit in 2013.

The company's core earnings — excluding retirement costs and the write-off — rose to $1.76 a share, up from $1.73 a share a year earlier. Analysts had expected core profit of $1.56 a share.

Investors bought shares on the news. They rose $3.08, or 2.4%, to $130.63.

In the three months that ended March 31, Boeing revenue increased 8% to $20.5 billion.

It is speeding production lines to reduce its record backlog. The company delivered 161 jets in the quarter. The 737 program is now delivering at a record production rate of 38 a month, with plans to go to 42.

In a conference call with investors, Boeing Chief Executive W. James McNerney said the company sees "no softening of demand for our commercial airplanes."

The company raised its core earnings forecast to $7.15 to $7.35 a share. That's up from an earlier forecast of $7 to $7.20.

Boeing expects to deliver 110 of its 787 Dreamliners, up from 65 last year. The company said 18 of the aircraft were delivered during the first quarter. Only one 787 was delivered during the same period last year when the plane was grounded worldwide because of problems related to its lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing's defense unit saw sales slide 5.9% to $7.6 billion from $8.1 billion a year earlier.

Full-year revenue guidance for military aircraft, which includes the Long Beach facility that makes C-17 cargo jets, fell to $14.2 billion. That's down from $15 billion.

Boeing is one of the largest private employers in Southern California. Besides the Long Beach factory, it has facilities in Huntington Beach and El Segundo.

"Our priorities going forward remain clear," McNerney said. "Profitable ramp-up in production of our commercial airplane programs, executing on our commercial and defense development programs, driving productivity and affordability throughout the enterprise."

Two other aerospace firms, Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., also reported profits in the first quarter.

Northrop — which has facilities in El Segundo, Redondo Beach and Palmdale — reported earnings of $579 million, or $2.63 a share. That's up 18.4% from $489 million, or $2.03 a share a year earlier.

General Dynamics, which has a shipbuilding operation in San Diego, said profit was up 4.2% to $595 million or $1.74 a share.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @wjhenn

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