January 14, 2020 / 3:41 PM / a month ago

Boeing net orders slump to lowest in decades

Jan 14 (Reuters) - Boeing Co reported its worst annual net orders in decades on Tuesday, along with its lowest numbers for plane deliveries in 11 years, as the grounding of its 737 MAX jet saw it fall far behind main competitor Airbus.

Allowing for cancellations and changes to earlier orders, Chicago-based Boeing said it had received just 54 new orders for planes in 2019 and delivered less than half as many as a year earlier, losing the top spot to its European rival for the first time in eight years.

Ten months after the MAX was grounded following a pair of fatal crashes linked to its MCAS anti-stall system, Boeing still has a backlog of more than 5,400 orders for its long- and short-distance commercial jets.

By comparison, Airbus said earlier this month it racked up a net 768 orders last year after cancellations and delivered a record 863 planes.

Boeing said on Tuesday deliveries fell by 53% to 380 planes over the whole of last year, as the MAX's grounding made it impossible for it to deliver the planes to airline customers, forcing it to halt production earlier this month.

Planemakers receive most of their revenue when aircraft are delivered - minus accumulated progress payments - making final delivery crucial for their finances.

Analysts estimate that Boeing has been losing around $1 billion a month because of the grounding and it reported an almost $3 billion negative free cash flow in the third quarter. Fourth-quarter figures are due on Jan. 29.

Boeing parted ways with Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg last month as it became increasingly clear that he was making little headway in resolving the crisis.

The company is still working to fix the MAX and there is little clarity on when it is likely to get the green light from regulators to bring it back into service, making analysts and investors jittery about its prospects in 2020. (Reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, and Ankit Ajmera and Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

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