Boeing Co. investors have enjoyed a surge in the aircraft maker's shares as it has racked up orders for the new 787 Dreamliner. Whether the ride continues may hinge more on engineers and mechanics than salespeople.
Boeing has orders for 584 of the planes, all that it can make through 2013, and plans to announce more contracts at this week's Paris Air Show.
Demand has been helped by production delays on rival Airbus' jumbo A380 and customer rejection of several designs for its planned A350 XWB. Now shareholders are questioning Boeing's ability to avoid its own delays.
"Investors are watching quite closely," said Matthew Spahn, an analyst at TCW Group in New York, which owned 1.2 million Boeing shares as of March. "Focus is going to be on Boeing's execution of that program."
Contracts for the 787 boosted Chicago-based Boeing's plane orders to a record 1,044 last year, topping Airbus for the first time in five years.
Airbus, located in Toulouse, France, booked orders for 790 planes. It has contracts for 13 of the new A350s, which will go into service five years after the 787.
Boeing shares, which closed Friday at $98.15, have almost doubled in the last three years, including a 16% gain in the last 12 months. Shares of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. have increased 21% in the last year.
Boeing plans to hold an unveiling ceremony for the 787 next month and is scheduled to deliver the first commercial model of the plane to Japan's All Nippon Airways Co. in May 2008. The plane maker says it will deliver 112 Dreamliners by the end of 2009, a schedule that leaves little margin for error.
Boeing was working to meet schedule and supplier challenges, Chief Executive James McNerney said April 25 during the company's first-quarter conference call.
"We are moving into the very critical final assembly and systems integration phases of our program," McNerney said.
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