Boeing lifts profit outlook as jetliner demand booms

US aerospace and defense giant Boeing raised its 2014 profit outlook Wednesday despite a first-quarter profit slide, citing strong demand for its new jetliners.

A sharp rise in pension costs from a change in retirement plans offset Boeing's robust commercial aircraft deliveries as airlines seek to renew aging fleets with more fuel-efficient jetliners.

Boeing posted net profit in the first quarter of $965 million, a decline of 12.7 percent from the year-ago quarter that nevertheless was better than analysts expected.

Boeing took a $334 million charge for retirement plan changes.

Core earnings per share came in at $1.76, three cents higher than a year ago and well above the $1.56 estimate.

Boeing scored an 8.3 percent rise in revenues to $20.47 billion, and operating cash flow soared 112 percent to $1.1 billion.

The Chicago-based company raised its 2014 profit forecast to between $7.15 and $7.35 per share, from $7.00 to $7.20, to reflect a tax settlement. It confirmed its outlook for revenue, operating cash flow and deliveries.

"Our outlook for the full year remains positive on the strength of demand for our fuel-efficient new commercial airplanes, our solid position in global defense, space and security markets" and the company's focus on improving financial and operational strength, said Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney.

The company returned more than $3 billion to shareholders during the quarter through its share repurchase program and dividends.

Commercial aircraft revenues climbed 19 percent to $12.74 billion on higher deliveries of two of its best-selling models -- the 787 Dreamliner and the 737 -- after the company boosted production rates to cope with surging demand.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes booked 235 net orders during the first quarter, which ended with a backlog of more than 5,1000 airplanes valued at $374 billion.

Total company backlog was $440 billion, down slightly from the beginning of the year, and included net orders for the quarter of $19 billion.

The company said it expects to deliver between 715 and 725 jetliners this year.

But the smaller Defense, Space and Security segment saw revenues fall 5.9 percent to $7.63 billion, amid a sharp drop in military aircraft revenue.

At the end of the quarter on March 31, Boeing had a cash pile of $12.2 billion, down from $15.3 billion at the beginning of the year. The decline was mostly due to the share repurchases and the pay-down of maturing debt, it said. Debt was $8.9 billion, down from $9.6 billion.

Shares in Dow member Boeing jumped 2.3 percent to $130.45 in pre-market trade on the New York Stock Exchange.