General Electric on Thursday forecast another year of falling profits and negative cash flow in 2019 but investors appeared to be cheered by its assurances that things would be “significantly better” in 2020.
The struggling conglomerate, which is in the midst of a major turnaround under new CEO Larry Culp, said it would make an adjusted profit of 50 to 60 cents per share this year — below analyst estimates of 70 cents — and lose as much as $2 billion in cash from its industrial operations.
“GE’s challenges in 2019 are complex but clear,” Culp said in a news release. “We are facing them head on as we execute on our strategic priorities to improve our financial position and strengthen our businesses.”
But he added that GE expects its performance in 2020 and 2021 “to be significantly better with positive industrial free cash flow as headwinds diminish and our operational improvements yield financial results.”
In trading Thursday, GE shares rose 3% to $10.32. Analysts cited the better-than-expected cash flow outlook.
“The prospect of free cash generation from GE’s industrial operations next year contrasted with the views of some of the more bearish analysts, who had suggested there could be a second year of cash outflows,” The Financial Times reported.
In a conference call with analysts, Culp reiterated his priorities of trimming debt and improving the performance of GE’s industrial businesses, especially the ailing power-plant division. He said the company will invest $2.5 billion in restructuring that will yield returns after 2019.
“This is what constitutes a reset,” he told analysts.
The power division lost $800 million in 2018 after sales fell 21% and GE said sales would decline “high single digit percentage points” this year. But it guided to positive operating margins for the division, which would be at least 3 percentage points up on last year.
“Importantly, cash flow in the aviation business is expected to remain strong — at more than $4 billion this year,” Barron’s said. “That is comforting for investors.”