Shares of Boeing Co. fell more than 2 percent in early trade Friday after Sanford C. Bernstein downgraded the stock on concerns about more potential delays for the high-profile 787 Dreamliner.
The program, already nearly three years behind schedule, could face more delays as the company probes the cause of an electrical fire that forced an emergency landing of a 787 test flight this week.
Sanford C. Bernstein downgraded Boeing shares to "market perform." Shares of Boeing were down $1.41 at $63.96 on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have fallen 6.5 percent since Tuesday when the incident occurred.
"We see greater margin risk on the 787 even without considering the impact of the November 9th fire," the brokerage said. "We expect the November 9 incident to add to delivery delays and exacerbate issues with suppliers and customers, although the size of the impact remains uncertain until more is known about the incident."
Boeing has halted test flights for the six 787s in the airborne test fleet until it determines the exact cause and remedy for the problem. The company has not said if the issue will lead to another delay for first delivery, which is set for the middle of the first quarter of 2011.
The 787 is a light-weight carbon-composite commercial aircraft that promises greater fuel efficiency. The company has taken about 850 orders for the plane.
Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney on Thursday repeated his long-held position that the company has been "overly ambitious" in applying new technologies to the 787's design. He also noted the company's unprecedented outsourcing of engineering and manufacturing.
"However, while we clearly stumbled on the execution, we remain steadfastly confident in the innovative achievements of the airplane and the benefits it will bring to our customers and their customers," he said.
Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane-maker after Airbus, said the problem relates to a power panel in the aft electronics bay and that inspections would take "several days."
"At the same time, we are working through a repair plan. In addition, we are determining the appropriate steps required to return the rest of the flight test fleet to flying status," the company said.
Howard Rubel, aerospace analyst at Jefferies & Co., said in a research note that he continues to rate the shares a "buy."
"From what we can tell, (Boeing's) statement indicates good confidence in the data and that both the problem and solution should be forthcoming," Rubel said.
"While there is likely to be some delay related to this incident, we doubt if it warrants the recent $3.7 billion reduction in the company's market value," he said.
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