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Boeing loses its title as world’s top plane maker; Airbus claims the crown

Boeing 787
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner nearing completion at the company’s facility in Everett, Wash., in 2009.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Boeing Co. lost the title of world’s largest plane maker as the 737 Max grounding sent the company to its biggest defeat in a 45-year duel with Airbus.

Deliveries tumbled to just 380 jetliners last year, Boeing said in a statement Tuesday. That was less than half of Airbus’ tally of 863 planes.

For the first time in at least three decades, Boeing also finished the year with negative net orders by one measure. Its gross sales of 246 jets were surpassed by those taken off the books because of order conversions, cancellations and an accounting adjustment, Bank of America Corp. analyst Ron Epstein said in a report.

Boeing’s epic trouncing underscored the depth of the Max crisis after global regulators halted commercial flights and deliveries of the model in March, following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people. Airbus’ victory was its first since 2011 and 10th since 1974, when the French company’s A300 jetliner made its commercial debut.

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Last year, Boeing shipped only 127 of its single-aisle 737 planes, lagging behind Airbus’ narrow-body total of 690 jets. But the Chicago company scored a win in twin-aisle jets, delivering 253 — 80 more than Airbus did.

Boeing finished the year with a flurry of 787 Dreamliner shipments that will help bolster its cash. The company handed over 45 of the marquee long-haul jets in the fourth quarter. That was five more than estimated by Cowen & Co. analyst Cai von Rumohr, who said “the 787-driven delivery beat” could add about $1.5 billion to revenue.

Boeing’s stock rose after the release of the data, which also showed that deliveries of satellites and military aircraft surged to 231 units, up from 98 the prior year. The shares erased their early-morning losses, ending with a gain of $2.13, or 0.6%, to $332.35.

“Underlying deliveries were strong outside of the 737 Max,” Sheila Kahyaoglu, a Jefferies analyst, said in a note to clients.

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Orders for the Max, Boeing’s top-selling jet, have been dented amid uncertainty over when regulators will finally clear the plane to resume flight.

After cancellations and conversions, Boeing recorded a total of 54 jetliner sales compared with 768 for Airbus. Including an accounting rule that restricts the revenue U.S. companies book from deals at risk of not materializing, the Boeing tally shrank to negative 87 orders for the year.


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