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Boeing boss welcomes Trump’s Twitter ‘engagement’

Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing, welcomed Donald Trump’s habit of individually targeting companies like the US aerospace and defence manufacturer for criticism via Twitter, praising the new president for “directly engaging” with corporate America. 

Rather than feeling bullied, Mr Muilenburg was effusive in his praise of the president’s social media strategy, as well as his economic plans including tax reform, saying he was giving business a “voice at the table”.

“I give [him] a lot of credit for reaching out and directly engaging,” Mr Muilenburg said in response to a question about what it feels like to be an executive in the presidential Twitter crosshairs. Boeing was one of several US companies castigated in tweets by Mr Trump, who complained that the cost of Boeing’s programme to replace the ageing Air Force One presidential jetliners was too high.

Mr Trump has adopted a “carrot and stick” approach of slamming US companies on issues such as jobs and defence costs by tweet, while enticing them with promises of cuts in taxes and regulations, leading many in corporate America to have mixed feelings about his presidency. 

But in recent days, aerospace and auto industry analysts say, more and more business leaders are responding publicly with laudatory comments like those of Mr Muilenburg. 

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg (L) speaks with the press after a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 21, 2016. © Getty

Mr Trump met chief executives of several leading companies, including US carmakers, at breakfast meetings on Monday and Tuesday. 

Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford, who was one of the first to be targeted by negative tweets from Mr Trump, emerged from Tuesday’s carmaker breakfast with fulsome praise for the new president. “As an industry we are excited about working together with the president . . . on regulation and on trade, to really create a renaissance in American manufacturing,” Mr Fields said. 

Ford was promptly rewarded when Mr Trump retweeted a video of Mr Fields’ comments, and those of General Motors chief executive Mary Barra, with the comment: “Great meeting with Ford CEO Mark Fields and General Motors CEO Mary Barra at the @WhiteHouse today.” He did not mention Fiat Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne, who was also present. 

On Wednesday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had similar praise on an earnings call with analysts, saying of his own meeting with Mr Trump: “I was impressed, I was meeting with a CEO – it was obvious.”

Boeing on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter results that beat market expectations and sent the manufacturer’s share price to a historic high. 

Its core earnings per share rose to $2.47 for the quarter ended on December 31, up from $1.60 a year ago. The company forecast it would deliver more commercial aircraft this year.

Via FT