Struck down by the pandemic, Boeing has found in march in a humiliating position for this symbol of the power of the United States: it sought to raise funds on the markets to fund its operations severely affected. Without success.
If it has managed to lend $ 25 billion by private investors, this painful episode has shown that the aircraft manufacturer is facing a new era in 103 years of history: it is no longer the juggernaut infallible which has dominated the aviation for decades.
Cancellations of orders accumulate for the aircraft featured 737 MAX, nailed to the ground for more than a year after two accidents having been 346 deaths and revelations that have tarnished permanently the image of the manufacturer, while the appetite for the 787, its latest aircraft, to revolutionary, has dramatically decreased.
The future of the Seattle giant, which represents approximately 1% of the GDP of the largest economy in the world, is still clouded in the face of a health crisis that has decimated the global air transport and the merciless competition of his european rival Airbus.
“Boeing has serious financial challenges” to face, believes Stan Sorscher, a former engineer at the manufacturer and now retired. “The air traffic collapsed, the planes are grounded, the airline customers do not need new planes and the capabilities of the suppliers in its supply chain are being called into question “.
Scott Hamilton, an expert at Leeham, goes further : “The biggest challenge for Boeing is to survive “.
And the new boss, arrived in the disaster in January, admits the lost ground.
“There is no doubt that the problems of MAX, the accidents, we have driven and we have brought back about two years,” said David Calhoun on may 8, on Fox Business Network.
Even if the giant aerospace retains a large political influence —its weapons programmes have recorded some success stories when the civil division was sinking in the crisis— it is necessary for him to rebuild his reputation, tarnished by a succession of revelations assassins on its internal culture, which has led to malfunctions during the development of the 737 MAX.
Pulling the conclusions of the black series, the financial rating agencies —which judge the ability of a debtor to repay his / her debt— to- have downgraded from Boeing with a notch only above the investment at risk.
For a long time, Boeing was judged as a company away from bankruptcy. It claims to be 17, 000 suppliers in the United States, 2.5 million direct and indirect jobs and is one of the largest suppliers of the Pentagon.
“We will do all that is necessary” to help Boeing, had also promised the president, Donald Trump on April 11, while the secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin was in regular contact with the group, according to sources close to the matter.
But in the face of Boeing, which called for $ 60 billion to the sector, the government is planning to require significant counterparties in order to avoid that public money does not go to dividend or executive compensation.
The salvation will come from the central Bank, which in reassuring the markets has allowed the giant aerospace launch the sixth largest bond issue in history and raise up to 25 billion dollars money.
However, Boeing has been forced to make significant concessions, such as commitment to pay more interest to its creditors if the rating agencies dégradaient still his note.
When the 737 MAX ?
The group is now “financially strong,” says a source in bank has advised Boeing, whose debt now exceeds $ 60 billion, while another noted that ” investors have hope that the company recovers and gets back to the front “.
The road to recovery promises to be tortuous, because the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus has nearly destroyed the market for large aircraft, already in suffering.
The Seattle giant will not produce more than 10 boeing 787 aircraft per month until 2021, compared with 14 in the beginning of the year, and will come down to seven units in 2022.
Airbus has widened his advantage in the single-aisle, advance that should support the global pandemic, because the airlines intend to make greater use of these aircraft are easier to fill and burn less fuel.
“Over the long term, the product line of Boeing is less than Airbus. The 787 is strong but its application is low. The 777X is a great plane, but it no longer has a market, and the family MAX is less than the program A320neo. Boeing has no aircraft rival to the A220, ” says Scott Hamilton.
Uncertainties surrounding the date of delivery into service of the 737 MAX, including orders for 258 of the aircraft were cancelled in march and April.
Boeing, the subject of investigations by the authorities and complaints from the families of the victims, continues to assert that it would be ” mid-2020 “, but regulatory sources have assured the AFP that the flight test required was not scheduled until June at least.
In the meantime, the aircraft manufacturer deletes 16 000 jobs, 10% of the workforce, could also eliminate one of the two assembly lines for the 787 and move its engineering centers to States that are cheap, according to sources with aviation.
“It will take time before we announced a major new aircraft,” said the 29 April Calhoun, removing all speculation.
“A decade has passed without that Boeing doesn’t launch a new product, it is only the second time that it happens in the history of the company. And there is no sign that something will happen in the decade to come, ” laments Richard Abulafia at Teal Group.