Gloomy outlook from GE sends shares lower

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NEW YORK: General Electric offered a downcast earnings outlook Friday based on weakness in its oil and gas and power divisions, as the company’s leadership transitions to incoming chief executive John Flannery.

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GE, which last month tapped Flannery to replace longtime CEO Jeff Immelt, said it expects full-year earnings to be on the low end of its range.

Shares of GE tumbled 2.9 percent to close at $25.91, making it the biggest loser in the Dow.

In addition to the disappointing outlook, analysts also cited suspicions the company is in “somewhat of a state of limbo” amid the leadership change, as one put it.

Some of GE’s performance metrics improved from the first quarter, but “not enough to change the narrative,” JPMorgan Chase said a note, warning that the company could trim back share repurchases.

GE executives expressed strong support for keeping the dividend, but appeared to hint at a slower pace of share repurchases, which analysts view as diluting the stock.

“The mosaic of results here looks worse than peer reports so far this season,” JPMorgan said.

Net income was $1.2 billion, down 57 percent from the year-ago period.

Revenues fell 11.8 percent to $29.6 billion, but that is in comparison to the same period of 2016 which was boosted by inclusion of appliances assets that have since been sold.

GE has struggled to ignite strong growth in its industrial divisions after Immelt over the last two years moved to sell massive finance assets.

In the second quarter, oil and gas once again was a drag, with profits falling more than 50 percent. Profits also fell in the power and transportation divisions, but rose in renewable energy, aviation and healthcare.

Executives cited “softness” in GE’s business for providing services during power plant turnarounds and warned demand for natural gas turbines could fall again in 2018.

GE’s oil and gas business also remained weak.

“The oil and gas environment remains challenging,” chief financial officer Jeffrey Bornstein said on a conference call.

“Our legacy business sees some improvement in activity, but we have not seen meaningful increases in customer capital. Oil prices remain volatile and as a result our customers remain cautious.”

Flannery said he is conducting “deep dives” into each of GE’s business lines, and promised a “hard look” at corporate spending. He plans a full report to investors in November.

But Flannery’s review will “take time,” said CFRA analyst Jim Corridore, who cut his investment recommendation on the company to “hold” from “buy”

“With oil and gas weakness overshadowing strength in aerospace and health, we now think there are better investment choices with likely higher (earnings) growth prospects in the industrial sector,” Corridore said.

But Morningstar analyst Barbara Noverini said GE’s travails as reflected in a lower share price are “symptomatic of near-term uncertainty rather than deterioration in GE’s longer-term prospects.”

AFP

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