For nearly two decades, Boeing Co.’s mass-produced 737 jetliner has doubled as its cash machine.
The single-aisle plane, a favorite of budget carriers, bankrolled a decade of losses for the 787 Dreamliner and a more recent stock-buyback spree of $38 billion — an amount equivalent to Ford Motor Co.’s market value. The newest version of the aircraft, the Max, was poised to become Boeing’s largest source of revenue and profit this year.
But since regulators grounded the best-selling 737 model indefinitely following two deadly crashes, the largest U.S. industrial company is in an unfamiliar position: conserving cash. That puts Boeing’s share repurchases at risk while threatening financial repercussions into 2020 and beyond if the 737 brand proves to be irreparably damaged.