January 31, 2019
By Alwyn Scott and Rachit Vats
(Reuters) – U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co reported a $666 million profit from continuing operations for the fourth quarter, recovering from a $11.2 billion loss a year ago, sending its shares sharply higher.
GE shares were up 7.8 percent in premarket trading as the company posted higher-than-expected revenue and rising profits in its aviation, healthcare and oil-and-gas businesses.
Revenue rose 5 percent to $33.3 billion, above analyst estimates of $32.6 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES.
The 2018 results cap an exceptionally bad year for GE that began with an $11 billion charge and disclosure of accounting investigations by U.S. regulators, and ended with GE naming an outsider CEO keen to speed up $20 billion in asset sales and chip away at GE’s massive debt.
Many analysts had braced for disappointing fourth-quarter results, and some expected new Chief Executive Culp to be blunt about bad news, a break from spin GE has applied in the past. They also wanted a clear earnings forecast and GE’s strategy for achieving it. But GE offered no 2019 forecast, and that is now expected to come at an analyst meeting Culp has promised but not yet scheduled.
“The only relevant data in the quarterly numbers is that actual sales and the free cash flow from the industrials business were better than expected. The company also settled one of their largest litigations with the DOJ, which is a big relief,” William Blair analyst Nicholas Heymann told Reuters.
“Net results of actions since Larry Culp took over in October is that things are moving forward and we see risk is improving while liquidity increasing,” he said.
GE’s profit totaled 8 cents a share, compared with a loss of $1.29 a share a year ago. On an adjusted basis, GE earned 17 cents a share, below analyst estimates of 22 cents, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
GE’s closely-watched cash flow from operations slipped to $6.4 billion in the quarter from about $7 billion last year, and was down 80 percent to $2.3 billion for the full year, due to outflows in prior quarters.
GE’s ailing power division lost $872 million in the quarter and its GE Capital finance arm lost $177 million, GE said.
“Our strategy is clear: de-leverage our balance sheet and strengthen our businesses, starting with Power,” Culp said in a statement.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski)