Analysts: Boeing shares headed toward $200

Boeing workers at the company’s North Charleston campus were making and installing components in aft-body fuselage sections for the 787 Dreamliner this week. The planemaker’s stock is soaring.

Boeing Co.’s stock hit another 52-week high Friday — and it could be headed toward $200 per share, according to Sterne Agee analysts who revised their price target after the aerospace giant released its year-end financial numbers this month.

Sterne Agee said it expects the stock to hit $196, up from its earlier estimate of $164. The analysts raised the price based on their belief that Boeing’s cash flow is underappreciated, according to a report in Barron’s.

“We estimate Boeing will generate $23 billion in free cash flow during 2015 to 2017, with (about) $16 billion available for buy backs after dividends which would enable a 15 percent reduction in the shares outstanding,” Sterne Agee said in its report.

Boeing’s production backlog of nearly eight years — about 5,800 airplanes worth $440 billion — “will continue to make the Boeing stock a must own in 2015 among mega large-cap industrials,” Sterne Agee said.

Boeing closed at $158.31 on Friday, up nearly 3 percent from the previous day’s close. About 9.3 million shares were traded Friday in the wake of Sterne Agee’s report — more than twice the average volume. Boeing’s share price has risen 18 percent over the past four weeks.

Meanwhile, Boeing said in its annual report that the first delivery of the 787-10 still is scheduled for 2018. Boeing’s campus in North Charleston — which makes the Dash-8 and Dash-9 Dreamliner models along with a facility in Everett, Wash. — will be the only plant to make the Dash-10.

Cayce-based energy holding company SCANA Corp., the parent to SCE&G, reported fourth-quarter earnings of 73 cents a share this week, mirroring results from a year earlier but missing analysts’ estimates by a penny.

SCANA reported a profit of $105 million during the fourth quarter on revenue of $1.2 billion. The company reported $538 million in earnings for all of 2014 on revenue of $4.95 billion, respective year-over-year increases of 10 percent and 14 percent.

Fourth-quarter earnings for its SCE&G segment totaled 53 cents per share, up from 51 cents during the same period a year ago.

Jimmy Addison, SCANA’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a statement that 2014 “was certainly a very unusual year due to the significant impact of weather in both the winter and summer seasons.” Addison said abnormal weather contributed 21 cents per share to electric margins.

“More importantly though, we continue to see improved economic conditions in all of our service territories with customer growth accelerating,” he said.

SCANA reported that SCE&G’s natural gas and electric customers increased 2.8 percent and 1.4 percent to 338,000 and 688,000, respectively.

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The company also noted this week that its board approved a nearly 4 percent boost in the cash dividend on its common stock, which is widely held among South Carolina investors. The payout rises 2 cents to 54½ cents a share April 1.

The chairman of Carnival Corp., the company that owns the Fantasy cruise ship that calls the Port of Charleston its home, netted more than $433 million recently when he sold 10 million shares of the company.

Micky Arison said he sold the shares for tax planning, estate planning and diversification purposes.

Arison’s family still owns about 20 percent of the company, or 159.2 million shares.

Arison, who owns the Miami Heat basketball team, stepped down as Carnival’s CEO in 2013 after 34 years at the helm to become chairman. Arnold Donald took over as the new CEO that same year and recently gave the keynote speech at the Charleston YWCA’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial breakfast.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_