U.S. And European Sanctions After Russian Action In Ukraine Could Deliver A Heavy Blow To Boeing's Titanium Imports

  • Boeing plant
    A Boeing assembly plant Reuters
  • Russia Ukraine
    Armed servicemen wait in Russian army vehicles outside a Ukranian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014. Reuters/Baz Ratner
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As the threat of violence continues in Ukraine with Russia’s military presence in the country, an unlikely twist of events could see the Boeing Company’s (NYSE:BA) titanium supply dry up and potentially increase global costs of the lightweight metal, which is used in many of the company’s aircraft.

Europe, echoing the U.S. position, has threatened financial and diplomatic sanctions against Russia if its military intervention against neighboring Ukraine continues. 

The problem for Boeing is that any slowdown in the supply chain out of Russia could see the price of titanium rise sharply, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday. Boeing says it has contingency plans in place to source titanium, but will not comment on the potential impact of any sanctions or the details of those plans. 

The crisis is already having economic effects, according to a statement by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. He said recent goodwill negotiations to boost U.S.-Russian economic ties would now be suspended. And given that Russia declined talks with the new Ukrainian government on Tuesday, it looks like tougher sanctions may be put in place sooner rather than later. 

Russia appears to have already suffered financially after around $55 billion was wiped from the value of Russian companies on the Moscow stock market as trading opened on Monday after the Crimean intervention over the weekend.

Boeing relies heavily on importing titanium from Russia, especially for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, of which 15 percent is made up of the lightweight metal. To date, Boeing has spent around $7 billion in the country since the end of the Cold War and expects to increase that to $27 billion by 2021, according to Boeing.  The U.S. company even owns 50 percent of a titanium mine in the Ural Mountains, shared with VSMPO-Avisma, a Russian metal manufacturer. Such is the demand that Boeing was also in the midst of a deal to open a second mine with Rostoc, a large Russian state-owned conglomerate that is also a global arms supplier.

Boeing also has around 100 orders for aircraft from various Russian airlines, worth billions of dollars. 

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