updated 4/22/2009 9:22:54 AM ET 2009-04-22T13:22:54

Boeing Co., the world’s second-largest plane maker, said Wednesday its first-quarter profit dropped by half, partly because of planned production cuts as airlines postpone deliveries of new planes.

The Chicago-based company also cut its projected earnings for the year. It cited tough commercial airplane and defense market conditions. It plans to slash spending and restructure parts of its business as the global economic downturn presents “unprecedented challenges.”

Orders for Chicago-based Boeing’s jetliners have tumbled this year as the recession dampens demand for air travel and air cargo services. Airlines have grounded planes as fewer people fly, and tighter credit markets have made it more difficult for potential buyers to obtain financing for new aircraft.

The Chicago-based aerospace company said it earned $610 million, or 86 cents per share, compared with $1.21 billion, or $1.62 per share, during the same period last year.

The results included a charge of 38 cents related to planned production cuts of its twin-aisle 777. The charge also reflected plans to delay an increase in the production of its 747-8 and 767 planes.

Excluding one-time charges, Boeing’s profit was 88 cents per share.

Revenue edged up 3 percent to $16.50 billion.

Analysts had expected a profit of 91 cents on revenue of $16.70 billion, according to a a survey by Thomson Reuters. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.

The company lowered its 2009 profit forecast to a range of $4.70 to $5 per share, from $5.05 to $5.35, reflecting lower earnings at its commerical airlines business.

Shares of Boeing rose $1.35, or 3.7 percent, to $38 in premarket trading Wednesday. During the quarter, the stock slid nearly 17 percent, briefly hitting its lowest point in about six years — $29.05 per share.

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