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Boeing fourth-quarter profits slump on lower aircraft sales

US aerospace giant Boeing reported Wednesday 2010 earnings more than doubled but fourth-quarter profit slumped amid a sharp fall in commercial aircraft sales.

Boeing's full-year net income was $3.31 billion, up 152 percent from the 2009 profit of $1.31 billion.

The bottom line was helped by a more than doubling of its operating margin from 3.1 percent to 7.7 percent, and a one-off boost from a favorable $371 million tax settlement.

Fourth-quarter net income fell eight percent from a year ago to $1.16 billion, in line with analyst expectations.

Sales for both 2010 and the fourth quarter missed analyst expectations.

Full-year sales fell 5.8 percent to $64.3 billion, while sales in the final three months of the year dropped almost eight percent to $16.55 billion.

"Boeing delivered strong operating performance and exceptional cash generation from core production and services businesses in 2010, which helped mitigate the impact of development program challenges," Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman, president and chief executive, said in a statement.

"We're entering 2011 well-positioned for growth, with a large order book, increasing global demand for commercial airplanes, greater clarity around our domestic defense outlook, and significant international defense sales opportunities."

Earnings per share for the year was $4.46, including a net 45 cent boost from the non-cash tax settlement and a charitable trust contribution, compared to $1.84 in 2009.

For the fourth quarter, per share earnings dropped to $1.56 from $1.75.

In Boeing's commercial airplanes segment, fourth-quarter revenue fell 11 percent on lower-than-expected deliveries of 777 and 747 airplanes.

McNerney said the key focus in 2011 would be delivering the new 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 freight aircraft.

Last week Boeing put off the planned first delivery of the 787 from February to the third quarter due to problems in testing the aircraft.

The first 747-8 should be delivered in mid-2011, the company said.

Going into 2011, Boeing said its backlog of contracted orders stood at $304.0 billion compared to $301.5 billion at the beginning of 2010.

Boeing forecast earnings per share in 2011 of between $3.80 and $4.00, roughly even with 2010 when the net tax benefit is stripped out.


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