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Aug 9, 2019

GE tumbles as renewed cash concerns loom over Culp’s turnaround

GE investors should take a breather: UBS


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General Electric Co. (GE.N) seemed to be getting back on track under a new leader earlier this year, avoiding many of the missteps that had plagued the company in recent years. But returning the one-time titan to health still looks to be a heavy lift.

The shares fell sharply Friday, extending a steady drop this month as investors digested GE’s second-quarter results, which showed strains on cash flow and the traditionally strong aviation business. Declining interest rates are also weighing on the company’s pension obligations.

John Inch, an analyst with Gordon Haskett and prominent GE bear, expressed concerns about cash flow despite GE’s recent decision to increase its 2019 forecast. Excluding a factoring business that is being wound down, “the company’s operating performance has shown more substantial deterioration,” he said in a note to clients Thursday.

GE has been grappling with cash headwinds since before Larry Culp took the reins as chief executive officer in October. The former Danaher Corp. boss has made progress in reducing GE’s debt, addressing operational challenges and boosting cash, including a sale of Wabtec Corp. shares this week that will bring in about US$1.5 billion.

Deleveraging the balance sheet and strengthening operations remain a focus amid a “multiyear transformation,” GE said in an email.

“We have been clear that we are continuing to manage headwinds over the near term,” the company said. “We are making progress across our portfolio and we continue to expect stronger cash performance in 2020 with further acceleration in 2021.”

Investors are getting antsy. GE fell 3.6 per cent to US$9.15 at the close in New York, the seventh decline in the past eight sessions. Since July 30, the day before GE reported quarterly earnings, the shares are down 13 per cent -- the second-worst performance in a Standard & Poor’s index of industrial stocks.

Despite the recent decline, GE is still up more than 25 per cent so far this year.

The company’s market value, currently at about US$80 billion, plunged more than US$200 billion during the two years ending Dec. 31.


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