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Boeing boosts profit on strong jet sales

Boosted by strong sales in its first financial quarter, Boeing Co. beat analysts’ estimates largely due to an increased production rate of commercial jetliners.

The Chicago aerospace giant reported a profit of $965 million, or $1.28 a share. That’s down 12.7% from last year’s first-quarter profit of $1.11 billion, or $1.44 a share.

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 per share, up from $1.73 during the same period a year ago. Analysts had expected core profit of $1.56 per share.

Investors bought shares on the news and in midday trading the stock was up $2.61, or 2%, at $130.16.

In the three months ended March 31, Boeing reported first-quarter 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 between $7.15 per share and $7.35 per share. That's up from an earlier forecast of $7 and $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 due to problems related to its onboard lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing’s defense unit saw sales slide 5.9% to $7.6 billion, down from last year’s $8.1 billion.

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, including the Long Beach factory, facilities in Huntington Beach and a sprawling satellite operation in 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.”

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