Boeing considers earnings-tapping pension expenses

NEW YORK — Boeing Co. is studying different ways to account for pension expenses, which reduced the aerospace company’s third-quarter earnings.

Chief Financial Officer Gregory D. Smith said Tuesday that Boeing is considering several options, including making no change.

The options under review include changing to mark-to-market accounting, which would take into consideration changes in the value of pension assets and obligations. It could, however, introduce more swings in earnings reports because the current accounting method spreads out gains and losses from assets over several years.

Last month, auto parts and building equipment maker Johnson Controls Inc. said it would switch to mark-to-market accounting.

Smith said Boeing would like to make a decision by January, when the airplane builder and defense contractor will offer a financial forecast of 2013. He said during a Goldman Sachs investor conference that the goal was to give investors a better idea of how the company’s core business is performing.

Boeing’s net income in the third quarter fell 6 percent to $1 billion, because of higher pension expenses. On a per-share basis, net income was $1.35 but would have been $1.53 without the pension item. Revenue rose 13 percent to $20 billion.

Smith was also asked whether Boeing, which has a backlog of more than 4,000 airplanes to build, can still increase the number of orders it gets over the next two years.

“We’re not seeing a slowdown in demand,” Smith said, adding that about half the backlog consists of airlines buying more fuel-efficient replacement planes.

Boeing’s defense business has been under pressure because of the outlook for slower Pentagon spending, which could be cut from the so-called fiscal cliff in January. Smith said Chicago-based Boeing sees potential growth for sales of transport planes, fighter jets and helicopters to the Middle East, India and South America.

Shares of Boeing slipped 3 cents to $73.66 in afternoon trading Tuesday. They are closer to the high end of their 52-week range of $62.12 to $77.83.

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