The company’s $13.5 billion in cash and short-term investments provide a cushion, as does the $3.7 billion in free cash flow generated in the fourth quarter of 2012, but both will be eaten away each month the plane is grounded.
So far, analysts and one source familiar with Boeing’s thinking do not expect the cash squeeze will prompt Boeing to borrow more, even at current low interest rates. The company itself said only that it has not adjusted its cash management strategy.
Boeing’s cash flow could be cut by as much as $1.5 billion over six months if the 787s are still unable to fly, analysts said.
“The longer the plane is grounded, the greater the risk of the company’s 2013 cash flow meaningfully declining,” said Solomon at Moody’s.
So far, Boeing’s stock has held up at around $75, higher than for most of last year, and customers are expressing faith in the plane and its maker. Airlines are being notified of late deliveries, but none has canceled any orders.
The shares have fallen 3 percent since the 787 grounding in mid-January, compared to an 11 percent gain for Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA).
Boeing says it is still too early to quantify the financial impact of the grounding, and its 2013 financial forecasts excluded 787 costs.