Boeing set to release first quarter financial report

On Wednesday, Boeing will give its most public accounting yet of how the 737 Max crisis has hurt its bottom line.

The company is set to release its financial report for the first three months of the year. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv are forecasting that earnings per share fell 11%, compared to the same quarter last year. Experts had previously forecast that Boeing’s quarterly earnings would increase 18%.

And the cost of the crisis is probably even worse than the big profit decline suggests.

The March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet prompted the worldwide grounding of all Max jets, which is Boeing’s best seller. Then on March 14, Boeing stopped delivering the jets to airlines. That will cost Boeing significant revenue because most of the cost of a plane is paid at the time it’s delivered.

Not surprisingly, analysts have slashed their share price forecast for the current quarter by more than half.

It’s quite a rough turnabout for Boeing, which reported record annual sales when it released results three months ago.

The good news for Boeing: Most of the sales are expected to be completed later in the year after deliveries resume. For example, United recently announced it expects to take delivery this year of all 21 of its 737 Max.

Boeing continues to build the 737 Max, albeit at a reduced pace. Before the crisis, it had been planning to increase, not slow, production. That will drag down the company’s full-year financial results.

Investors will be particularly eager to hear what Boeing says about when the grounding will be lifted, as well as the company’s outlook for deliveries and orders for the jet. Boeing is working to fix the software that operates the plane’s safety system, which is the focus of investigations into two crashes that took 346 lives — the Ethiopian crash and a fatal crash of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October.

Earlier this month Boeing disclosed that new orders for the 737 Max had already slowed before the second crash and that it has received no orders for the plane since the second crash. Part of that slowdown is due to the fact that sales for the plane had been strong; Boeing had a backlog of 5,000 orders. (Orders of the Airbus A320, the main rival product of Boeing’s Max, have also slowed.)

Boeing will also probably have to compensate airlines whose planes have been grounded. Cai von Rumhohr, an aerospace analyst with Cowen, said that those payments could run into the billions of dollars.

The CEO of Norwegian Air said he will be sending a bill to Boeing. United executives said they expect to have discussions with Boeing about compensation. It’s unlikely Boeing will say how much it expects compensation to airlines will total. The company never detailed similar costs of a three-month grounding of the 787 Dreamliner in 2013.