Boeing will release its fourth quarter and 2012 earnings early Wednesday, but analysts’ attention is expected to focus not on Boeing’s 2012 results but on how the company may suffer financially because of battery woes with its 787 Dreamliner.
Two battery fires, a fuel leak and a cracked windshield this month in the 787 fleet have grounded the 50-plane fleet while Boeing and investigators in the United States and Japan look for the cause of those problems.
Some analysts are predicting the grounding and fixes necessary to restore the planes’ safety and reliability may cost Boeing between $350 million and $550 million this year.
As for 2012 numbers, analysts are predicting Boeing earnings of $1.19 a share on average and revenues of $22.36 billion, an increase of 14.2 percent over last year.
So far, neither the company nor investigators have found a cause for the plane’s battery problems, the most serious of its woes.
Japanese investigators have said their investigation has thus far cleared the battery maker, so the focus of the probe has shifted to the makers of a battery monitoring and a battery charging system.
In new developments Tuesday, high-tech billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, an electric vehicle company and of SpaceX, a space transport concern, offered his help publicly to Boeing. The lithium ion batteries Tesla and SpaceX use, he said, have encountered no difficulties.
The 787 is equipped with two high-tech lithium cobalt batteries to power cockpit instruments and controls in case of a power failure and to start the plane’s auxiliary power unit. The lithium batteries are particularly dangerous if they begin burning because they’re nearly impossible to extinguish until they destroy themselves. The two incidents in recent weeks have caused no injuries to passengers.
One battery aboard a 787 caught fire after passengers had deplaned in Boston. The other battery encountered problems on a domestic flight in Japan. Pilots there made an emergency landing.