(ATF) The pandemic has replaced bad design as the leading money loser for Boeing, as the US aircraft manufacturer posted a deficit for the sixth consecutive quarter.
Production issues also dragged down revenues, but the company blamed signs of an uneven airline industry recovery as Covid-19 vaccines roll out at different rates in key markets.
The aerospace giant has been in crisis mode since March 2019 when regulators grounded the 737 MAX model for 20 months following two deadly crashes, but it cited the United States and China as especially resilient markets.
"While the global pandemic continues to challenge the overall market environment, we view 2021 as a key inflection point for our industry as vaccine distribution accelerates and we work together across government and industry to help enable a robust recovery," Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun said in a statement.
Calhoun warned that other regions of the world were much more uncertain, and cited industry data showing airlines are running at less than 60% of global capacity.
"When you look broadly around the world, it's not quite as robust," he said. "And so this year is still going to be a rough and tumble year for most countries around the world, including Europe."
The company reported a $537 million loss in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $641 million in the year-ago period. Revenue came in better than expected at $15.2 billion, but still down 10% from a year earlier.
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"Boeing’s first-quarter results reminded investors that their recovery will be long and filled with many hurdles," Edward Moya, senior Americas market analyst at New York brokerage OANDA, said.
The MAX issues are ongoing, with the US Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday ordering Boeing to fix bonding issues in the electrical systems of some planes that could lead to a loss of engine ice protection and other critical functions.
Boeing also pointed to lower deliveries of its larger 787 Dreamliner planes as a drag in the quarter. The company resumed deliveries on the 787 in March following a suspension last fall to address production problems.
"The aerospace giant still has a messy couple of quarters ahead. Boeing’s cash burn was much worse than expected on struggles with Dreamliner deliveries and a slow resumption of the 737 Max," he added.
The results were also dented by one-time costs of $318 million associated with Boeing's Air Force contract to supply two new VC-25B jets, otherwise known as Air Force One, the US president's plane.
The costs were "largely due to Covid-19 impacts and performance issues at a key supplier," Boeing said.
Calhoun reiterated that he does not see a full recovery in the commercial airline market to pre-Covid levels until 2023 or 2024.
With reporting by Agence France-Presse