Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock has yet to recover from 2018.
When the 737-MAX scandal first overtook the company, investors were told to “buy the dip” at $320 per share. After all, BA stock traded at $440. It delivered dividends of more than $2 per share each quarter.
Those who bought lost big. In early 2020 CEO Dennis Muilenberg was fired without severance. Board chairman Dave Calhoun, a former General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) executive, author of the book How Companies Win, replaced him.
Today, BA stock is selling for half what it did before the scandal.
Today’s Boeing is still a messed-up company.
Customers are slamming it publicly over continuing delays in delivering its flagship plane. Others are arguing over pricing. New airlines are going with Airbus (OTCMKTS:EADSY) instead. China, once the great growth hope, is building its own industry and rejecting Boeing jets.
Taxpayers are holding up Boeing. The Defense Department continues to throw it military contracts, but Uncle Sam isn’t Uncle Sucker. The Air Force is cutting a program to upgrade Boeing Hornet fighters. Even NASA has lost patience, moving astronaut assignments from Boeing’s StarLiner to SpaceX.
A Closer Look at BA Stock
Critics say Boeing has never really been punished for what happened with the 737-MAX. Blame has been shifted to specific employees, but corporate management has gotten off.
Calhoun insists things are about to get better.
Analysts haven’t given up. They see a stock selling at just over double its sales, with huge potential margins. Half the 14 analysts still following the stock at Tipranks see it as a buy.
None of the others are saying sell. The share price is more than 10% so far in 2021, with Tipranks expecting another 18% gain.
But is that true? Airplane technology isn’t advancing. You’re still throwing exhaust into the upper atmosphere.
A recent surge in air freighter sales may not last. Ocean freight delays won’t continue forever, and Boeing’s freighters need to be redesigned to meet future air pollution limits. More than half the company’s orders are now for jets carrying freight, not people.
Boeing’s most loyal airline customer, Southwest Air (NYSE:LUV), is being sued under racketeering laws for continuing to defend the company. Delta Airlines (NYSE:DAL), another longtime customer, may just be teasing new orders seeking better pricing.
The Bottom Line
We are now nearly two years into Dave Calhoun’s tenure at Boeing. The promised turnaround has not happened. Boeing is as troubled today as when he took over.
The question now is whether Boeing can be fixed at all.
Investors who bought in March 2020, when the 737-MAX problems were at their height, have more than doubled their money. Those who came in last November, after the initial bout of optimism, have seen no gain at all.
I have a bad feeling that Boeing is getting by on its reputation. Like other past giants of American manufacturing, like US Steel (NYSE:X), International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), and GE, its best days may be behind it.
I would love to be wrong. But if I were in this stock, I wouldn’t wait around to find out.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held no positions in companies mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of Living With Moore’s Law: Past, Present and Future available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @danablankenhorn. He writes a Substack newsletter, Facing the Future, which covers technology, markets, and politics.