- remains a risk in February and could halt the company's FAA review since engineers are crucial to understanding the plane's intricacies.
A strike by engineers also could severely slow or halt deliveries. During a 40-day SPEEA strike in 2000, the company delivered just 19 planes.
Contract talks now hinge on Boeing's efforts to eliminate a defined benefit pension plan for new hires, an attempt to reduce pension expense that Boeing said would reach $2.5 billion in 2012 and that analysts' estimate will total $1.8 billion in 2013.
The pension cost is affected by interest rate assumptions and market dynamics, things Boeing can't control. So some on Wall Street focus on the company's operating earnings, which largely factor out pension costs.
Analysts have trimming their estimates for Boeing's fourth-quarter earnings to $1.19 a share on revenue of $22.35 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Perhaps more telling: some analysts say their 2013 estimates have dimmed and at least three have cut their ratings on the stock which has lagged broader indexes this year.
Goldman Sachs removed Boeing from its "conviction buy" list, BB&T Capital Markets reduced the stock to "hold" and then "underweight", and Moody's said the 787 grounding was "credit negative" for the company while keeping its ratings intact. Twenty analysts rate the stock a buy or strong buy, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Also on the upside, Boeing is targeting more defense sales to Asia, as other defense companies are doing, to stabilize the 40 percent of revenue coming from that side of the company and stave off the effects of US budget sequestration.
"We expect flat-to-declining revenues" for Boeing's defense and space business in the medium term, Khan at Society Generale wrote in a note to clients.
Some analysts say the 787 problems appear to be relatively easy to fix, perhaps by swapping in a different battery type.
But even so, Boeing still faces a longer-term review of its design, manufacturing and assembly processes by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA has not set a time frame for its wide-ranging investigation, which is aimed at dealing with an assortment of problems with the new jet. An electrical