Boeing CEO sees slow airline rebound, no dividend for 'years'
New York (AFP)
Boeing's head said Monday that restoring the dividend could take three to five years as the company girds for a slow air travel recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Chief Executive David Calhoun said it could take "years" to resume dividends after halting the payments in March, signaling that paying back debt and keeping up its manufacturing supply chain were bigger priorities for the forseeable future.
Speaking at the company's annual meeting, Calhoun offered a sober outlook on the near-term prospects for commercial air travel in the wake of a virus that is projected to cost the industry hundreds of billions of dollars in 2020 revenues.
Calhoun said it could take two to three years for commercial airline travel to return to the level prior to the coronavirus crisis.
Boeing is expected to soon initiate talks with the US Treasury on potential federal support for the aviation giant. Boeing has not said definitively whether it will take federal aid.
Around $17 billion aimed at Boeing was included in the giant federal relief bill approved in late March under the CARES act, which restricts dividends and share buybacks from companies that take aid.
Calhoun predicted the airline industry would have a strong recovery once the COVID-19 crisis is contained, but warned of a tough road until that time.
Airline clients are deferring deliveries, suspending payments to Boeing and retiring older aircraft, which hits the company's services business.
"We know we're going to have to borrow money in the next six months," Calhoun said, adding that repaying debt will occupy the company for the next while, impeding its ability to return cash to shareholders.
He also identified maintaining the company's supply chain as a priority, saying "without the supply chain, there will be nothing to assemble."
© 2020 AFP