General Electric shares jumped on Wednesday after it beat its own forecast for a key cash flow metric, boosting investor confidence in CEO Larry Culp’s turnaround plan.
GE’s outlook for earnings in 2020 was below Wall Street estimates but fourth-quarter industrial free cash flow came in at $3.9 billion, giving it $2.3 billion in industrial FCF for 2019 as a whole. The company had guided for $2.5 billion in quarterly cash flow.
“The fourth quarter marked a strong close to the year for GE,” Culp said in a news release. “We met or exceeded our full-year financial targets and are on a positive trajectory for 2020. We’re proud of our progress in 2019, including decisive actions to reduce our leverage and strengthen our businesses.”
GE is predicting cash flow between $2 billion and $4 billion in the current year though it expects adjusted earnings to fall to a range of 50 to 60 cents per share from 65 cents in 2019.
“It looks as if cash flow is trumping earnings,” Barron’s said as GE’s shares rose 10.2% to $12.92 per share in trading Wednesday. The stock is up almost 30% over the past three months, well above the comparable gains of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average over the same period.
GE cautioned, however, that its 2020 cash outlook is dependent on Boeing’s 737 MAX returning to service in mid-2020, as Boeing expects. The company makes the engines for the aircraft, which has been grounded worldwide since March 2019 following two deadly crashes.
“GE’s restructuring remains very much a work-in-progress, with some signs that Culp’s turnaround is taking hold,” Investing.com analyst Haris Anwar said. “If demand for its power turbines doesn’t pick up, or the 737 MAX aircraft … remains grounded for an extended period of time, the gains that GE stock have delivered could evaporate quickly.”
In the fourth quarter, GE’s power turbine orders fell 30% to $4.5 billion while revenue remained flat year over year.
Since taking over as CEO in October 2018, Culp has reduced debt, restructured GE Power and made significant management changes, including hiring former shipping executive Carolina Dybeck Happe to replace Jamie Miller as CFO.