GE shares drop after giving 2019 forecast lower than Wall Street estimates

General Electric told shareholders on Thursday that the embattled conglomerate expects 2019 earnings to be below what analysts anticipated as it continues to be plagued by problems in its power business.

GE expects 2019 adjusted earnings between 50 cents and 60 cents a share, below the 70 cents a share Wall Street expected according to Refintiv. GE shares fell 1.2 percent in premarket trading from Wednesday’s close of $10.02 a share.

This was the first outlook from GE Chairman and CEO Larry Culp, who was appointed in October.

“We have work to do in 2019, but we expect 2020 and 2021 performance to be significantly better,” Culp said in a statement.

GE revised the company’s reported 2018 earnings and revenue lower. On an adjusted basis, GE lowered its 2018 earnings to 53 cents a share, down from 65 cents a share. On a GAAP (non-adjusted) basis, GE revised total 2018 revenue to $105.2 billion from $113.6 billion.

The company’s power business is expected to continue to struggle. GE is expecting power to be “significantly better but negative” in 2020, according to the company’s presentation.

But Culp is working on turning around GE’s fortunes. Heremains focused on improving the company’s cash generation, as well as cutting costs.

Additionally, GE confirmed what Culp told investors on Mar. 3: GE’s industrial free cash flow “in 2019 will be negative,” with the key metric expected between flat and negative $2 billion. GE’s industrial free cash flow was $4.5 billion in 2018. Free cash flow is a financial term defined as money left over after a company pays for operating expenses and capital spending and is often used as a gauge of efficiency. GE’s industrial free cash flow is a key measure watched by investors.

GE expects industrial free cash flow to bounce back to positive in 2020.

The company’s debt overhang is also a focus for Culp. GE said “the company remains committed to … targeting a rating in the Single A range.” For heavily leveraged GE Capital, the company said it is targeting a debt-to-equity ratio below 4 times.

Culp is aiming to get GE Capital’s net income to “breakeven by 2021,” the company said.

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