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GE slashes quarterly dividend ahead of expected restructuring

Reuters 

By Alwyn Scott and Ankit Ajmera

(Reuters) - General Electric Co chopped its quarterly dividend in half on Monday, new Chief Executive John Flannery's first move in an overhaul of the conglomerate he is due to announce later in the day.

GE cut the dividend to 12 cents per share from 24 cents starting in December, which is expected to save the company about $4 billion in cash annually.

Its shares were up 0.7 percent at $20.64 in premarket trading. The stock is the worst performing Dow component this year, down 35 percent through Friday's close.

Flannery plans to focus on three of GE's biggest business lines - aviation, power and healthcare - the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter. (http://on.wsj.com/2jnKS2F)

Investors gathering in New York to hear Flannery's presentation told that GE's plan as outlined so far was largely as expected, but left open the question of how the company will generate the cash flow that it has failed to deliver in recent years.

GE will provide details about its business and strategy at an investor presentation at 9 a.m. (1400 GMT).

Flannery's strategy is a turning point for the company, which over several decades built itself into a sprawling conglomerate with interests across media, energy, banking, aviation, railroads, marine engines and chemicals.

The move to make GE smaller and nimbler would be a turnaround from the previous multi-business approach taken by former CEOs Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt.

Flannery's changes would repudiate much of Immelt's vision of a "digital industrial" company that builds software to manage and optimize GE's jet engines, power plants, locomotives and other products.

Conglomerates are out of favor on Wall Street, where investors prefer to bet on specific industries rather than a mixed portfolio.

GE executives have said that analysts have undervalued the company's digital business. They argue the digital units should be valued more like Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google and other fast-growing tech companies.

Analysts have disagreed about GE's value.

Scott Davis at Melius Research said GE's parts are worth about $31 per share, based on projected 2020 earnings. But Stephen Tusa at JPMorgan pegged the value of the parts at about $17 per share, based on 2018 financial estimates and lower valuations for units including power, renewable energy and transportation.

GE's move to cut its dividend is the third time in its 125-year history and is a desperate bid to save cash when the company's cash flow is deteriorating.

The other two cuts came during the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2007-2009.

"We are focused on driving total shareholder return and believe this is the right decision to align our dividend payout to cash flow generation," Flannery said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, November 13 2017. 19:27 IST
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