Business | Investment

Cost cuts help GE profit beat estimates

Chief executive Immelt bullish on company’s prospects

  • Reuters
  • Published: 19:10 July 19, 2013
  • Gulf News

New York: General Electric (GE) beat quarterly profit expectations by a penny, helped by cost cuts and sales of jet engines and oil pumps, sending shares up in premarket trading on Friday.

Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said he was bullish on the company’s prospects for the rest of the year as GE tries to reduce the size of its finance unit and boosts industrial-related sales.

GE said its order book, an indicator of how much work it has received from customers, was up 4 per cent globally and 20 per cent in the United States, jumps that surprised Wall Street.

“This is as close as GE comes to a positive surprise as possible,” said Tim Ghriskey of Solaris Asset Management, which owns GE shares.

Some analysts were wary though, hoping the conglomerate will be able to achieve its long-stated goal of boosting 2013 margins by 0.7 per cent.

“That will require Herculean improvement in the second half” of 2013, said Nick Heymann, an analyst at William Blair & Co, which trades GE shares.

The trick is for GE to turn around orders quickly so it can collect revenue from customers.

The world’s largest jet engine manufacturer announced more than $26 billion in jet engine orders last month at the Paris Air Show. Earlier this month, it closed on its nearly $3 billion buyout of oilfield pump maker Lufkin, broadening its offerings of pumps that pull oil and gas to the surface.

Sales in both its oil & gas and aviation units rose 9 per cent in the quarter.

Energy and aviation are considered two of GE’s strongest growth areas, drawing the most optimism from shareholders.

“Among investors, I think there was quite a bit of concern that this quarter was going to be a more challenging one,” said Jack DeGan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp, which owns GE shares. “I was pleasantly surprised that the quarter came in as strong as it did.”

The shrinking of the finance unit, GE Capital, dented overall results, though it has been expected on Wall Street and has been Immelt’s long-stated goal.

GE Capital’s revenue fell 3 per cent from the same period last year, and its earnings dropped 9 per cent.

The company transferred its chief financial officer, Keith Sherin, to run GE Capital earlier this month, a move designed to help achieve the goal.

GE Capital nearly sank the whole company during the 2008 recession, highlighting why Immelt and his team want to shrink it. Still, the unit brought in nearly one-third of overall quarterly revenue, showing just how large it remains.

Last month, US regulators said GE Capital was “systemically important” to the US financial system, a designation commonly known as “too big to fail.” That effectively means it will be scrutinized more closely by the US Federal Reserve and may require additional capital reserves.

“GE Capital is shrinking quicker than expected,” said Perry Adams of Northwestern Bank, which owns GE shares. That’s “good from a capital allocation standpoint.” Second-quarter net income fell to $3.69 billion, or 36 cents per share, in the second quarter, from $4.01 billion, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts expected earnings of 35 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell 4 per cent to $35.1 billion. Analysts looked for $35.56 billion.

GE has aggressively cut costs, slicing more than $474 million so far this year. The company plans to keep research spending flat in 2013.

The stock was up 2.2 per cent to $24.14 in premarket trading.

Shares have jumped 12.6 per cent so far this year.

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