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GE is one of the most complicated companies in Corporate America

Brian Sozzi

General Electric’s (GE) long-awaited financial outlook is out and it confirms one thing: The industrial giant is one of the most complex companies in Corporate America.

That obviously makes GE CEO Larry Culp’s efforts to turn around a company after years of aggressive deals and mismanagement infinitely harder. It also makes it tougher for investors to get a handle on the company and whether it should place chips on turnaround specialist Culp.

The business is “big and complicated,” acknowledged GE chief financial officer Jamie Miller in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

GE is about to enter a wild three-year period, that much is for sure.

The General Electric logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

GE spills the beans

What GE unveiled Thursday is a touch optimistic, but rich with details that suggest the company could achieve its new goals, provided the global economy does fold and Culp has employee buy-in.

The company outlined its plan in a 38-page presentation. Here are some things that stood out to Yahoo Finance:

  • About $400 million to $500 million in HQ cost cuts in 2019. Expect more headcount reduction as GE rethinks its approach to doing business (and sells off assets and shrinks). Miller declined to comment on how people would be let go at HQ.

  • GE used an optimistic brush to paint its 2020 outlook by business segment. Free cash flow is seen improving in most businesses year-over-year.

  • Industrial free cash flow is down $2 billion to flat in 2019, in “positive territory” in 2020 and “accelerating” in 2021.

  • GE is looking for additional ways to reduce debt, such as tender offers for outstanding debt.

  • Miller tells Yahoo Finance she is “comfortable” that most of the risks at GE Capital have been identified.

A slide from GE's 38-page financial guidance presentation. [Source: GE]

Culp continues to pull no punches in his comments on turning the company around. Thursday morning, he said 2019 will be a “reset year” and that GE’s challenges are “complex.” Miller says Culp is looking at GE through a “reality-based lens”, counter to many other top executives at the company over the years.

GE shares fell 1.7% in pre-market trading, but reversed to rise by 3% in midday trading. A ton to digest.

Better to wait and see

GE has a lot to prove to investors. Despite the commendable attention to detail by Culp and his team, investors may be better off taking a wait and see approach. Doing so will allow said investors to get a grasp on the root causes of what ails GE and reward progress by Culp.

Pass the coffee after analyzing GE’s latest list of promises and numbers.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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