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Boeing's financial damage from grounding of 737 MAX exceeds $18 billion

Boeing is reporting its first annual loss in two decades as the grounding of the 737 Max continues.

Boeing is posting its first annual loss since 1997 as it struggles to handle the grounding of its best-selling plane after two crashes that killed 346 people.

Boeing said Wednesday that it lost $1 billion in the fourth quarter. Revenue plunged 37% due to the grounding of the 737 MAX.

For all of 2019, the company lost $636 million.

Boeing's financial damage from the grounding of the 737 MAX now exceeds $18 billion.

The MAX was Boeing's best-selling plane until being grounded worldwide after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The company has set aside billions to compensate airlines affected by the grounding.

"We recognize we have a lot of work to do," said Boeing's new President and Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun. Calhoun took over after Dennis Muilenburg was reportedly fired. "We are focused on returning the 737 MAX to service safely and restoring the long-standing trust that the Boeing brand represents with the flying public. We are committed to transparency and excellence in everything we do.

"Safety will underwrite every decision, every action and every step we take as we move forward. Fortunately, the strength of our overall Boeing portfolio of businesses provides the financial liquidity to follow a thorough and disciplined recovery process."

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Production of the 737 MAX was temporarily halted. Production of the 737 MAX will resume this spring, Calhoun said on Jan. 22. That is months before the aircraft is expected to be certified by federal regulators to fly again.

Calhoun dismissed the idea that Boeing's best-selling jet might never fly again or that the company should change the plane's name.

“I'm all in on it, the company is all in on it, and I believe the FAA is all in on it,” he said.

In addition to the grounding, Boeing CFO Greg Smith said trade impacts are hurting widebody jet sales. 

Boeing reassigned its 3,000 employees who work on MAX assembly. Calhoun said they will not be laid off or furloughed. However, some suppliers have announced layoffs. Spirit AeroSystems, which makes fuselages for the MAX, has said it will cut 2,800 jobs.

Calhoun said he's aware of the impacts and pressure the production halt has on suppliers and that Boeing will need them once production resumes. 

"We will be transparent in everything we do going forward," he said. 

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