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GE Loses Gains from CEO's Exit as JPMorgan Sees No Easy Fix

July 6, 2017
While GE has good individual business units, the company is facing weakness in many of its end markets, including power generation, oil and health care, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said.

So much for the new-CEO stock bump.

General Electric Co. (IW 500/6) slumped on July 6 after JPMorgan Chase & Co. said the industrial giant may consider more restructuring, trim buyback plans and cut the 2018 outlook as it battles sluggish oil prices and weak demand in some markets. The shares have given up their gains from last month’s announcement that CEO Jeffrey Immelt will step down this year.

“While we expect a fresh start, a positive, we don’t see a quick or easy fix to the current predicament,” Steve Tusa, an analyst at JPMorgan, said in a note as he reduced his price target to $22 from $27. That’s the lowest of all estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The report underscored the challenges for GE’s next CEO, John Flannery, a company veteran who will take over next month. The Boston-based manufacturer has faced pressure from shareholder Trian Fund Management this year amid weak earnings, cash-flow concerns and a stock that has trailed the broader markets. GE agreed to deepen cost cuts after meetings with the activist firm, which was co-founded by Nelson Peltz.

The shares fell 2.5% to $26.68 at 12:34 p.m. in New York, after trading at their lowest intraday price since October 2015. GE hit $29 in the days after the CEO change was announced.

GE stuck by its expectations of $12 billion to $14 billion of cash flow from operations this year and stock repurchases of $11 billion to $13 billion. Additionally, “the GE dividend is safe,” the company said on July  6..

Not every analyst is down on the stock. Scott Davis of Barclays Plc recently made GE his “top pick,” saying the company will be helped by a simpler portfolio, larger cost cuts and improving cash flow. He has a price target of $36 a share, the highest among estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

While GE has good individual business units, the company is facing weakness in many of its end markets, including power generation, oil and health care, Tusa said. Following a series of portfolio changes in recent years, GE has bet on industries such as aviation and energy while tilting away from the finance and consumer markets that once underpinned its operations.

Flannery may reset expectations and lower next year’s profit forecast, particularly after what could be a “relatively weak” second-quarter report, Tusa said. While the dividend isn’t likely to be cut, GE may trim the stock buyback effort to free up cash, the analyst said. Tusa’s price cut came after Deutsche Bank AG in May recommended selling GE shares.

By Richard Clough

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