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Boeing reports higher earnings

Record commercial aircraft production — most of that in the Puget Sound area — drove higher profits for The Boeing Co. in the fourth quarter and in 2014, the company reported Wednesday.

The aerospace company’s revenues, operating earnings, earnings per share and operating cash flow all increased substantially in 2014 over the previous year, the Chicago-based company reported in an earnings call Wednesday morning.

Revenues were up from $86.6 billion in 2013 to $90.8 billion last year. Core operating earnings jumped $1 billion to $8.9 billion. And core earnings per share were up from $7.07 in 2013 to $8.60 for last year. Those figures generally beat Wall Street estimates.

For the fourth quarter, revenues climbed from $23.8 billion to $24.5 billion and core earnings per share from $1.88 to $2.31.

The stellar performer among Boeing’s big divisions was its Puget Sound-based Commercial Airplanes division, which reported revenues up 15 percent for the year. The other big division, Defense, Space & Security, reported a 4 percent shrinkage in revenues.

Once nearly equal in generating income and revenues for Boeing, the commercial airplanes operations has eclipsed the military division as Boeing increases airliner production and governments cut back on military expenditures.

In the past two years, Boeing has implemented six production rate increases in the commercial aircraft operation and plans five more rate increases before the decade ends.

The company, for instance, is now producing 42 737 single-aisle planes at its Renton plant and plans to increase that to 52 per month by 2018. The company in the depths of the recession was producing as few as 14 737s a month at Renton.

Boeing also met its target of 10 787 Dreamliners a month in 2014 after a slow start and numerous delays on its composite airliner program. That production rate is scheduled to jump to 12 787s monthly.

The backlog of commercial airplane orders totals some $440 billion or about eight years’ production, thus the continuing need to increase production rates. The company last year booked 1,432 net orders for new commercial airliners raising the backlog to more than 5,800 aircraft.

The company’s cash flow, a statistic that analysts were watching closely because they considered it anemic last year, jumped from $700 million in 2013 to $4.3 billion this year.

Boeing used profits to repurchase 7.8 million shares of its own stock in the fourth quarter for $1 billion and paid $500 million in dividends.

For 2015, Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney predicted earnings per share ranging from $8.20 to $8.40 a share and revenues of $94.5 to $96.5 billion. Operating cash flow this year will likely top $9 billion, the company said.

The stock market reacted favorably Wednesday to Boeing’s numbers. Boeing stock closed at $139.64 a share, up $7.16 a share.

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