CHICAGO — Demand for commercial jets airliners boosted Boeing Co.'s fourth-quarter profit by 19 percent, topping Wall Street expectations by a wide margin and offsetting weakness in the defense business.
Boeing offered a muted outlook for 2015, however. Falling oil prices, which make jet fuel much cheaper, might hurt airlines' demand for new, more fuel-efficient planes.
The shares rose in premarket trading before Wednesday's opening bell.
Boeing said that it earned $1.47 billion, or $2.02 per share, compared with $1.23 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year ago.
Excluding special items, Boeing said that so-called core earnings rose to $2.31 per share. Analysts expected $2.11 per share, according to FactSet.
Revenue rose 3 percent to $24.47 billion, also beating FactSet's Street forecast of $23.93 billion.
However, Boeing said that adjusted earnings this year will be between $8.20 and $8.40 per share. That is below analysts' forecast of $8.66 per share, according to the FactSet survey. The company forecast 2015 revenue of $94.5 billion to $96.5 billion, which would easily beat analysts' consensus expectation of $93.25 billion.
Chicago-based Boeing and European rival Airbus are benefiting as airlines around the world go on a shopping spree, helped by rising demand for travel and cheap financing. Boeing posted 432 net orders for new planes in the fourth quarter and 1,432 for all of 2014, pushing its backlog of commercial planes to nearly 5,800 with a record value of $440 billion.
The company is also delivering more planes — 195 in the fourth quarter, compared with 172 a year earlier — helping boost cash flow. Revenue in the commercial-plane segment grew by 15 percent.
About one-third of Boeing's revenue comes from defense-related products, and that part of the company is not doing as well, as defense budgets come under pressure. Defense revenue fell 14 percent, led by a 29 percent decline in money from military aircraft.
Boeing shares were up $4.22, or 3.2 percent, to $136.70 in premarket trading about 45 minutes ahead of the market open. At Tuesday's closing price, the shares were up 1.9 percent in 2015 but down 3.6 percent in the last 12 months.
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