Boeing CEO says 'confident' China can contain virus
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Boeing CEO David Calhoun said on Wednesday he was "confident" China could contain a viral outbreak that has prompted airlines to cancel flights and governments to warn against travel to the country.
The death toll from viral outbreak originating in the central city of Wuhan has risen to 132 and while nearly 6,000 have been infected across China, a scale that exceeds the 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Cases have been reported in the United States and elsewhere prompting authorities to monitor passengers arriving from China for signs of illness.
"The experience with SARS in a much earlier timeframe, and the protocols that were established, I believe, will contain this at a much faster rate than it would have otherwise contained it without that experience," Calhoun said on CNBC.
And the virus will not have a "long-term effect" on travel to China, the newly installed Boeing chief said following the Wednesday morning earnings release.
China is a key customer for Boeing but weak demand for new aircraft blamed in part on trade wars with the United States has battered the aircraft maker at a time when it is dealing with the crisis in the wake of two deadly crashes of its top-selling 737 MAX.
The company posted its first annual lost in more than two decades, halted production of the top-selling MAX as the grounding of aircraft has dragged on, and on Wednesday announced it would again cut production of its 787 Dreamliner.
Calhoun said he was "very optimistic" China would order more Boeing aircraft, though he declined to say if he expected it to happen this year.
"We will do everything in our power to get that order, to re-establish the great relationship that we have ... and I believe their need for aircraft is significant," Calhoun said.
The company said Wednesday it will cut production of the Dreamliner to 10 airplanes a month in early 2021 through 2023 based on the "near-term market outlook."
In October, Boeing lowered 787 production to 12 from 14 a month, citing lower orders from China.
The aerospace giant reported a loss of $1 billion in the fourth quarter and $636 million for all of 2019 -- its first annual loss since 1997 -- largely related to costs associated with the MAX, including reimbursing airlines for thousands of flight cancelations.
© 2020 AFP