* Gross orders down 61 pct
* Delivered 481 planes last year (Adds analyst comment, share move)
CHICAGO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Boeing Co’s (BA.N) gross orders fell 61 percent to 263 airplanes last year amid a steep decline in air travel and freight transport.
The second-largest plane maker after rival Airbus EAD.PA reported a net 142 commercial plane orders in 2009 after cancellations. The company said its backlog was 3,375 planes.
“The global recession presided as an oppressive market reality in 2009, driving many carriers to reevaluate their near- and medium-term fleet requirements,” Boeing said in a statement.
Plane deliveries, which immediately affect the company’s financial performance, totaled 481 in 2009, up 28 percent from 375 in 2008. Deliveries were in line with the company’s forecast for 480 to 485.
Boeing shares were up 2.5 percent at $61.28 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Jim Albaugh said in a statement that signs of economic recovery were emerging and that the company looks forward to “better days ahead.”
At least one analyst agrees. Alex Hamilton of Jesup & Lamont said plane orders have hit a low point and will start to pick up.
“At the second half of last year, most of the domestic airlines ramped up their balance sheet,” Hamilton said. “We’re seeing evidence of capacity creeping back in. We’re seeing evidence of airline traffic improving. We think that on the horizon, (plane) orders are going to follow.”
Airbus has yet to report its 2009 orders and deliveries. The company overtook Boeing as the biggest-selling plane maker in 2008.
Boeing said it would provide a 2010 commercial plane delivery outlook when it releases year-end financial results on Jan. 27. (Reporting by Kyle Peterson and Karen Jacobs; Editing by Derek Caney and John Wallace)