Boeing (IW 1000/53) reported a fourth quarter fall in earnings as expected Wednesday, as tax costs surged from a year earlier but operating earnings gained on strong sales growth.

Meanwhile, the company's chief executive said the company was focused on solving the battery problem that grounded its newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, worldwide.

"Our first order of business for 2013 is to resolve the battery issue on the 787 and return the airplanes safely to service with our customers," said Boeing chairman and CEO Jim McNerney.

Net earnings for the quarter came in at $978 million, compared to $1.39 billion a year earlier, when earnings were buoyed by a favorable one-off tax settlement.

But sales jumped 16.7% to $19.79 billion, and net earnings before tax gained 6.3% to $1.54 billion from the year-earlier quarter.

Earnings per share came in at $1.28 compared to $1.84 a year earlier; "core" earnings per share were $1.46, well above analysts' forecasts.

For the full year Boeing net earnings came in at $3.9 billion, down from $4.0 billion in 2011. But core earnings per share were $5.88, better than the $5.01 analysts had predicted.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013