Boeing will still burn $1 billion a month on 737 Max even with production halt, JP Morgan says

GP: Boeing 737 Max in production
Employees work on Boeing 737 MAX airplanes at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington on March 27, 2019. Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Boeing will still burn more than $1 billion a month even after halting 737 Max production, according to J.P. Morgan.

Boeing’s decision to stop suspend production of the troubled aircraft was made in light of months of cash-draining groundings worldwide, but the company’s internal overhead and labor expenses will remain and will increase cash burn, analyst Seth Seifman wrote to clients.

For one, wrote Seifman, Boeing’s internal overhead and labor costs won’t be going anywhere. Further, the planemaker is expected to support its suppliers until the 737 Max is cleared for flight, a key expense it must endure to maintain future production capability.

“We estimate that Boeing is burning nearly $2 bn per month on the MAX but this will not drop to zero during the halt,” the J.P. Morgan analyst wrote. “We expect Boeing to support suppliers, which comprise ~65% of the 737 cost base, in order to preserve labor and production capabilities. For now, we assume ~50% of supply chain costs hang around, resulting in monthly cash burn that is still solidly > $1 bn.”

J.P. Morgan remains overweight Boeing shares, but the bank cut its price target on the company’s stock to $370 a share from $400 a share. That still implies 13% upside from Monday’s closing price of $327 a share.

Boeing announced Monday that it will suspend 737 Max production in January, a critical step after the Federal Aviation Administration said its assessment of the planes would continue into 2020. The decision represents the latest chapter in one of the planemaker’s worst crises in its 100-year history, which has resulted in the grounding of its bestselling aircraft after two crashes involving the planes killed 346 people.

The company added Monday that it doesn’t plan to lay off or furlough workers at the Renton, Washington, factory where the 737 Max is produced. What remains unclear, however, it just how long Boeing will halt production due to the federal investigation, causing headaches for commercial airline companies as well as the manufacturer’s suppliers.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced this week the cancellations of thousands of 737 Max flights through early to mid-April, disrupting schedules during another busy holiday travel period — spring break and Easter.

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