General Electric’s stock surged nearly 12% Thursday as the industrial conglomerate reported revenue that was stronger than analysts had expected and as new CEO Lawrence Culp reassured investors a long-awaited turnaround may finally be underway.
GE said revenue rose 5.4% in the last quarter of 2018 to $33.3 billion, beating Wall Street forecasts by $1.1 billion, thanks to growth in its aviation, renewable-energy, and transportation businesses. The company’s non-GAAP earnings per share of 17 cents, however, came in below the consensus of 22 cents.
GE also said it reached a $1.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department over pre-2008 financial crisis practices at its now-defunct subprime mortgage business. GE has already set aside money for the settlement.
Given the bad news GE has faced for the past year, the results were strong enough to encourage investors that Lawrence Culp, who took over as CEO last October, could engineer a turnaround at the company. “The crisis phase feels like it has passed,” RBC analyst Deane Dray told CNN. “GE had such an epic unraveling. But there is value in the underlying business.”
In a conference call discussing earnings, Culp spoke bluntly about the challenges that still lay ahead for the company, particularly in its struggling power-generation business, which saw revenue decline 25% last quarter.
“Embracing market reality means a more appropriate revenue outlook,” Culp said in a departure from the sunny rhetoric of his predecessors, which had frustrated investors. Culp said that the power-generation business “faces a number of nonoperational headwinds and we expect a high water mark in this regard this year” but that the effects of those headwinds “should come down substantially” after 2019.
“Power is still in free-fall,” Scott Davis, analyst at Melius Research, said in a research note, adding that GE is offering “an honest assessment of the problems and (a) realistic plan to fix them … So the relief rally is explainable.”
Despite GE’s recent rally, which has brought the stock 51% up from the low point of $6.71 a share it reached last month, GE is still has far to go to recover its pre-crisis valuation. GE’s stock is still worth one-third as much as it was two years ago.