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Boeing May Suffer From Lengthy 787 Investigation

Problems Could Compound If Dreamliner Grounded For Months, Analysts Say

With the NTSB saying it is in the "early stages" of its investigation of a battery fire aboard a JAL Dreamliner, some analysts are looking at the potential impact of the probe on Boeing as a company ... and they are not entirely optimistic.

While investors are not yet shedding the planemakers shares, Carter Leake, an aerospace analyst with BB&T Capital Markets, told Reuters recently that if the investigation drags into six or nine months, airlines may begin cancelling orders for the airliner.

The initial reaction from Wall Street ... Boeing's value has dropped only about 2.5 percent since the problems cropped up ... seemed to indicate that there was confidence that the issue would quickly be identified, and that the fix would be relatively inexpensive. But a lengthy probe could mean production cuts for the Dreamliner, and that raises concerns, according to Moody's Investors Service analyst Russell Solomon. Boeing had planned to increase production to 10 airplanes per month by the end of 2013. Cuts in production would also likely spread through the planemaker's supply chain.

Another concern is that the eventual solution to the problem may add weight to the airplane, decreasing its gains in fuel efficiency.

Boeing still has strong orders for its other airplanes, such as the workhorse 737, and the company gets as much as 40 percent of its revenue from its defense sector. Analysts say that could help mitigate problems stemming from the 787 investigation. But Leake said that it would be enormously expensive for Boeing to slow its production and then bring it back to its current level.

(Image provided by the NTSB)

FMI: www.boeing.com

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