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GE’s ‘Climb Out’ Worries Analysts as Shares Relinquish Gains

Esha Dey
GE’s ‘Climb Out’ Worries Analysts as Shares Relinquish Gains

(Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co. shares gave back some of their gains from earlier this week as the market dissected and digested the company’s guidance for the year, as well as the stance of the new chief executive.

The troubled manufacturer on Thursday said it may burn as much as $2 billion in 2019, a figure that many Wall Street analysts said was not as bad as earlier feared. The company also appeared to have a much better grip on the myriad problems of its power and finance businesses, analysts said. Most importantly, GE indicated that many of the headwinds would lessen going forward and the company would return to positive cash flows in 2021.

Not everyone has bought into the idea. JPMorgan analyst Stephen Tusa, a vocal skeptic, said “the climb out of the cut to this year’s number to the promise for 2021” looked even more difficult than the former management’s challenges. “Even worse is that if recession hits, stubbornly high leverage would raise the stakes, versus back then when it looked like an over-valued stock,” Tusa added.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said this year won’t be “pretty,” and that there was a “lot of work to do” at GE. The CEO was also non-committal about a question on a potential rating review, saying that the “rating agencies certainly have an eye on GE.”

Gordon Haskett analyst John Inch noted that GE’s outlook suggested its industrial free cash flow would not reach the $4.3 billion that it earned in 2018, by 2021, despite the new management’s organizational heavy lifting and relatively booming global aerospace markets.“GE’s cash flow outlook remains mediocre at best, and no better than we had previously anticipated, despite ongoing billions of dollars spent on restructuring with seemingly not particularly compelling paybacks,” Inch wrote in a note.

GE shares dipped as much as 3.9 percent on Friday, giving back some of the week’s 13 percent gain. The developments come after a selloff on March 5 when the company provided a poor cash flow outlook that took some by surprise.

“Once the (qualitative) bullish analyst hype and the ‘not worse than expected’ enthusiasm begins to ebb and investors again put pen to paper, we expect GE’s current overvalued stock price to trend lower toward a more normalized and realistic valuation,” Inch said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Esha Dey in New York at edey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Courtney Dentch at cdentch1@bloomberg.net, Brad Olesen, Janet Freund

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