Boeing Co. delivered a record 762 jetliners last year as airlines world-wide continued to expand and renew their fleets despite weakening economic growth in some large emerging markets.
The Chicago-based company was poised to maintain its position as the world’s largest plane maker for the fourth year running; through November Airbus Group SE had delivered 556 planes. However, Boeing’s new orders almost halved from a year earlier to leave it trailing its archrival in sales.
Boeing, which delivered 723 planes in 2014, continues to boost production as it works through a backlog of almost 5,800 commercial jets. The industry’s order boom has been driven largely by more fuel-efficient versions of the two companies’ best-selling single-aisle jetliners. Airbus secured more than 1,000 net new deals across all of its models last year, reflecting its head start in selling its A320neo family of jets.
Boeing had aimed to match orders to deliveries in 2015, having cautioned that airlines and lessors were easing up on new deals after three straight years of its securing 1,200-plus orders. Cancellations remain below historical averages despite slowing growth in big markets such as China.
Higher production from its factories in Washington state and South Carolina are central to Boeing’s plans to fund a big share buyback program and bolster its military business until Pentagon spending starts climbing again over the next several years.
Boeing, which celebrates its 100th birthday in July, beat its own delivery target of up to 755 jets as it boosted production of single-aisle 737s and its advanced long-range 787 Dreamliner. The company added 768 new net orders and recorded 110 cancellations in 2015, compared with 1,432 orders and 118 cancellations a year earlier.
As of the end of November, Airbus had accumulated 1,007 net orders. The European plane maker is set to report its full-year figures on Jan. 12.