GE raises cash forecast, beats on adjusted EPS, lifting shares

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By Alwyn Scott and Sanjana Shivdas

(Reuters) – General Electric Co (N:) on Wednesday posted a $1.3 billion loss in the third quarter, but on an adjusted basis beat analysts’ profit estimates, helped by higher prices for aircraft parts and a strong healthcare business, and vowed to deliver $1 billion more cash this year than it had previously forecast.

The Boston-based conglomerate also said it saw “stabilization” at its power unit. Overall, revenue was flat as it struggles to restore growth and profits after taking a $22 billion accounting charge a year ago.

The results signaled “progress in the transformation of GE,” said Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp, who has called GE’s planned turnaround from a disastrous 2018 “a game of inches.”

The company said it now expects full-year industrial free cash flow to be between $0 and $2 billion, compared with its earlier forecast of negative $1 billion to positive $1 billion.

It held its other forecasts unchanged, though trimmed its plans for restructuring spending.

GE shares were up 7 percent at $9.72 in premarket trading.

“It’s a tsunami of information, but 90% is in line with or better than expected,” said Nick Heymann, an analyst at William Baird and Co in New York. “The sweet number is $650 million in industrial free cash flow,” he added, which was more than the $400 to $500 million he expected.

GE now needs to generate about $2.6 billion of cash in the fourth quarter to meet the midpoint of its new forecast, said John Inch, analyst at Gordon Haskett in New York, about half what GE generated in the same quarter last year.

“This seems plausible, but hardly robust – regardless of the company’s cash guidance ‘raise,'” Inch said in a note.

While GE’s adjusted results beat expectations, GE’s report showed difficulty in key business lines.

Orders at GE’s ailing power division fell 30 percent, and orders for GE’s gas-powered turbines fell 17 percent, the company said. GE’s website shows that it did not ship any of its newest and largest HA gas turbines in the last six months. Power revenue, which includes gas, steam and nuclear equipment and services, fell 14 percent in the quarter.

Orders for GE’s jet engines fell 27 percent, while engine service orders rose 15 percent. GE said it took a $300-million cash hit in the quarter from the ongoing grounding of Boeing Co’s (N:) 737 MAX jetliner, which uses engines partly made by GE.

The grounding, after a second fatal crash of the plane last March, means Boeing cannot deliver the jets to airlines, and GE therefore is not yet being paid for the engines it delivers, according to analysts. GE said it expects a similar hit of $400 million in the fourth quarter. Those numbers were in line with expectations GE set at the end of July.

GE said it took an $8.7-billion charge for reducing its stake in Baker Hughes Co (N:) to less than 50 percent in the quarter, a change that required GE to stop consolidating the oil and gas company’s earnings in GE’s results and to mark the remaining stake to fair market value. Analysts had expected a charge between $8.5 billion and $10 billion.

GE took a $1 billion charge for its long-term care insurance business to account for the effect of falling interest rates on its obligations. The charge was about what analysts expected.

GE also wrote off $740 million in goodwill for its hydro power business. Together, the insurance and goodwill charges amounted to 17 cents of EPS, GE said.

The company’s loss from continuing operations attributable to shareholders was $1.33 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $22.96 billion a year earlier.

Loss per share from continuing operations was 15 cents, versus a loss of $2.64 a year ago, the company said.

On an adjusted basis, which excludes such charges, GE earned 15 cents per share, compared with 11 cents that analysts had on average expected, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Total revenue fell slightly to $23.36 billion from $23.39 billion.

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