Shares are trading at a level that implies that the portfolio is incapable of returning to meaningful earnings growth--and that doesn't reflect the company's longer term potential.
By Barbara Noverini, CFA | 11-13-17 | 05:00 PM | Email Article

We expect to cut our fair value estimate to about $26 from $29, chiefly by reducing our expectations for midcycle margins after  GE’s long-anticipated investor update, in which new CEO John Flannery reset expectations to reflect the harsh realities of what we believe will likely be a multiyear turnaround. With the dividend cut by half to $0.48 per share, significant restructuring planned for the power segment, and no imminent breakup of the industrial conglomerate on the table, we believe maximum pessimism has been reached. Following today’s sharp sell-off, GE shares are trading at a level that implies that the portfolio is incapable of returning to meaningful earnings growth; however, we do not believe this reflects the company’s longer-term potential, considering that 70% of GE’s revenue and 85% of its earnings come from businesses that dominate their markets. While we acknowledge that 2018 will be messy, and that 2018 earnings will exhibit a lot of accounting and restructuring noise, we assert that GE’s collection of assets can return to healthy free cash flow generation over the long run under today's better management.

Barbara Noverini is a senior equity analyst for Morningstar.

In these early days of Flannery’s tenure, we like that his messaging repeatedly addresses questions we consider most important to investors: How will GE improve its free cash flow, and how will the company allocate that cash going forward? Cutting the dividend is painful, but it frees capital to allocate toward restructuring sorely needed to rightsize the power segment. Flannery also highlighted $20 billion of assets earmarked for divestiture over the next two years, including transportation, lighting, and up to 10 other smaller businesses, a sign of purposeful redirection of capital and management attention toward businesses with strong potential for secular growth. Finally, management incentives will be pegged to free cash flow performance, a change we welcome to better align the company’s interests with shareholders'.

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Barbara Noverini, CFA does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.
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