GE: 2020 Third Quarter Earnings Review

General Electric reported a 2020 third quarter GAAP loss of $1.16 billion or $0.13 per share on revenues on revenues of $19.4 billion, down 17%.  In the 2019 third quarter, the company reported a comparable net loss of $1.3 billion of $0.15 per share.

Adjusted EPS was $0.06 versus $0.15 in the prior year quarter.  Major differences between GAAP and (non-GAAP) adjusted earnings for 20Q3 included add backs for unrealized losses on investment securities of $0.07 per share, non-operating benefit costs of $0.05 per share, an impairment charge on Steam assets of $0.04 per share and restructuring expenses of $0.03 per share.

The results exceeded my expectations on the top line and the bottom line.  I had anticipated revenues of $18.3 billion, with industrial revenues of $16.5 billion and GE Capital revenues of $1.8 billion.  Actual revenues were $19.4 billion, including $17.9 billion for industrial and $1.5 billion for GE Capital.

Although my GAAP loss per share estimate of $0.14 was close to the reported loss of $0.13, the actual reported loss included the aforementioned unrealized losses on investment securities and impairment charge on Steam assets, which I had not anticipated in my projections.  As a result, adjusted EPS of $0.06 exceeded my estimate of a loss of $0.05.  In essence, GE generated meaningfully more industrial revenues and profit than I had anticipated.

Wall Street has cheered the news.  GE’s stock performed quite well during October and has continued to rise since reporting earnings on October 28.  The stock’s advance has been fueled over the past two days following the announcement that Pfizer’s COVID-90 vaccine candidate is proving to be 90% effective.  At today’s closing price of $8.99, GE’s stock is up 52% since its most recent bottom of $5.93 on Sept. 11.

GE’s industrial businesses clearly performed better in 20Q3 than I had anticipated.  While revenues were higher, the most striking aspect was the improvement in profitability, driven mostly by actions taken to reduce costs.  All of GE’s businesses were profitable in the quarter.  Both the Power and Renewable Energy segments reversed prior year losses on low single-digit gains in organic revenues (i.e. excluding the impact of acquisitions and divestitures).  Aviation reported a segment profit of $361 million, reversing its 20Q2 loss of $683 million, on revenues of $4.9 billion, up from $4.4 billion in 20Q2.  Healthcare reported a 30% increase in organic segment profit (i.e. excluding the sale of the BioPharma business) with segment margin increasing 260 bp from a year ago and 270 bp sequentially.

The sequential increase in industrial profitability almost matched dollar-for-dollar the increase in revenues.   Organic revenues increased by $1.82 billion, while organic segment profit increased $1.67 billion.  CEO Larry Culp said that GE is building momentum, but the business environment is still difficult and orders remain under pressure.

Assuming that the cost cutting that drove the profit improvement is sustainable, I have raised my earnings estimate for the 2020 fourth quarter and full year and also for 2021.  Even so, the company will have to see a turnaround in orders, accompanied by a general improvement in global economic conditions in order for this momentum to be sustainable.

With the recent surge, GE’s stock has, in my view, come too far too fast.  Accordingly, I have reduced my 6-12 month performance outlook rating to “3” or neutral from “2” previously.  Although I maintain my favorable long-term outlook for the company and its stock, with a price target of $12-$14, I believe that there will be substantial volatility going forward around what should be a steady long-term advance.  That volatility will be driven by changes in market sentiment, the economic outlook and exogenous events.  For example, with the global “second wave” of the coronavirus now upon us, the global economic recovery could very well slow and even be reversed temporarily.  This could delay the recovery in air travel even further, limiting for the near-term the return of GE Aviation’s profitability to pre-COVID-19 levels.

November 18, 2020 (From a report originally published on November 10, 2020. Contact me to obtain the full report.)

Stephen P. Percoco
Lark Research
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Linden, New Jersey 07036
(908) 975-0250

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