Business Standard

General Electric cuts dividend, splits loss-making power unit


By Alwyn Scott and Rachit Vats
(Reuters) - General Electric Co slashed its quarterly dividend to just 1 cent per share and said it would split its power unit into two businesses as new Chief Executive Larry Culp took his first steps to revive the struggling conglomerate.
GE made an expensive bet on fossil fuels with a pricy 2015 acquisition and is still working to cut debt and revive its sagging stock price. Its revenues and profits have declined over the years, in part as GE pulled back from finance and other businesses. The 126-year-old conglomerate was once the most valuable U.S. corporation but has slimmed down to focus on jet engines, power plants and renewable energy.
The industrial conglomerate said Tuesday it will significantly miss its full-year cash flow target of about $6 billion. It also said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had expanded its probe of GE's accounting to include a large writedown of goodwill from GE's power division. The Department of Justice is also investigating GE's accounting.
GE reported a $22.8 billion loss for the third quarter on Tuesday, largely due to the writedown in the value of its GE Power business. The power business also lost $631 million in the quarter, GE said.
Overall, GE posted a loss of $2.63 a share, compared with 16 cents profit a year ago, on a 4-percent revenue decline to $29.6 billion. Adjusted earnings were 14 cents a share, down from 21 cents a year ago. Analysts had expected 20 cents a share, according to Refinitiv data.
"My priorities in my first 100 days are positioning our businesses to win, starting with Power, and accelerating deleveraging," Culp said in the results statement.
GE said it would separate its gas turbine and services business from other parts of the power unit.
GE did not cut its earnings forecast for the year from the most recent $1.00 to $1.07 per share, as some had expected. Analysts have cut estimates for adjusted earnings to 88 cents a share, on average, according to Refinitiv data.
A GE spokeswoman said the company was not sticking to the old targets, but was not providing new ones just yet.
"I just don't think Larry has his hands around this fully yet, enough to put his stamp of approval on guidance," said Scott Davis, analyst at Melius Research in New York.
GE shares reversed course and were trading down at $10.81. They had initially gained after its results.
GE picked Culp to succeed John Flannery on Oct. 1, the day GE disclosed it would write off substantially all of the $23 billion of goodwill for its power division. Flannery lasted only about 14 months in the top job.
The charge reflects both the cost of GE's $10 billion acquisition of power assets from Alstom SA in 2015, and GE's view that promised profits from power are now unlikely.
"They are acknowledging that it is not going to turn around in a hurry," said Paul Healy, a professor at the Harvard Business School who focuses on corporate financial reporting.
The struggle at power, where orders fell 18 percent and revenue fell 33 percent in the quarter, mirrors a global decline in demand for new fossil-fuel plants caused in part by falling costs of solar and wind power. GE bet heavily on fossil fuels with its 2015 power acquisition, its largest ever, just as the market turned.
"The only way out of this mess is to restructure power," Davis said. "It will bottom eventually."
Credit agencies have since cut GE's ratings, increasing its debt costs, and its financial challenges, which have prompted talk that it will issue stock to raise capital, limit the funds GE has to fix its power division, according to analysts.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York, Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Nick Zieminski)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Oct 30 2018 | 6:30 PM IST

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