Boeing closed out its worst year ever financially by losing $8.4 billion in the fourth quarter as the pandemic has undercut demand for planes, and the company announced another costly delay to its new large jetliner designed for long-haul flights.
Most of Boeing's troubles over the past two years have swirled around the troubled 737 Max. However, the biggest piece of the fourth-quarter loss reported Wednesday was a pretax charge of $6.5 billion tied to its newest plane, the bigger 777X.
It all added up to a record full-year loss of $11.94 billion.
“Listen, 2020 was a year like no other. Our world, our industry, our business, and our communities were facing unprecedented challenges, and we’re still in the midst of it,” CEO David Calhoun said on a call with analysts. “The next six to nine months will remain very challenging for our airline customers and the entire industry.”
Boeing shares fell 4% to close Wednesday at $194.03.
Just three years ago, Boeing's profit topped $10 billion. After losing money in 2019 and 2020, analysts are predicting a return to profitability this year. That will depend, however, on how quickly the pandemic eases enough for travel to recover.
“It's going to be driven by the rollout of the vaccine,” said Jeff Windau, an analyst for Edward Jones. “When does the public start to feel comfortable getting back on planes? When do the airlines start to place more orders and start taking deliveries of planes?”
Windau said Boeing's ability to generate cash “should look a lot better” in the second half of this year.