Strong demand for aircraft, plane parts and services and defense products led manufacturer Boeing to boost its dividend and share buyback programs on Monday, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Greg Smith, tells CNBC.
Boeing’s board of directors voted Monday to raise the company’s quarterly dividend by 20 percent in 2019, bringing it to $2.05 per share. The board also approved a $20 billion share buyback program, replacing its prior authorization of $18 billion from last December.
The moves were seen as a sign of confidence in Boeing’s business, which produced a record amount of commercial airplanes by the end of this year’s third quarter and has exceeded cash flow expectations. In the last five years, Boeing has repurchased about 230 million shares and increased its dividend by about 325 percent.
“We’ve got about 5,800 airplanes in backlog, which is about seven years of production,” Smith told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in an exclusive interview. “As we look beyond that, there’s a need for 43,000 aircraft over the next 20 years. So we see a continued growing market, and part of that growing market is a replacement element. And this is about having the right products and services in the marketplace to win.”
Boeing has also been investing in “productivity and innovation” and winning multi-billion-dollar contracts with the U.S. Armed Forces, both major positives when it comes the company’s long-term prospects, Smith said Tuesday.
“We’ve been making significant investments in the business around productivity and innovation to ensure that we’ve got the right products and services in the market, not just for today, but in that 43,000 aircraft market combined with a service growth market and a defense market to win,” he said on “Mad Money.” “That’s what’s giving us the confidence.”
Smith also brushed off lingering concerns about Boeing’s business in China, which accounts for roughly a quarter of the manufacturer’s airplane orders.
“There’s a need there for about 7,700 aircraft over the next 20 years, and we’ve been working in China for about 50 years,” he told Cramer. “And then, just drilling down on the fundamentals within the country, the growth in the middle class and that 10 percent of the population has a passport, we see continued, great opportunities there and a portfolio that can meet those needs within that market over the long term.”
When asked whether other airlines would step up if China’s demand for planes tapers as a result of trade tensions with the United States, Smith said “we’ve certainly got strong demand.”
Shares of the aerospace giant, which has a market value of $186.3 billion, rose more than 1 percent in after-hours trading Monday and another 3.77 percent in Tuesday’s session.
Boeing’s stock is up more than 11 percent year to date, with shares settling Tuesday at $328.06. In late November, Wall Street firm Cowen said Boeing was its No. 1 stock for 2019 because airplane production is in a “sweet spot” and set a $445 price target.
In October, Boeing’s third-quarter earnings and revenue results topped analysts’ estimates, with revenue topping forecasts by more than $1 billion. The company also raised its full-year 2018 earnings guidance.