A monitor displays signage for General Electric Co. (GE) on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

GE's Back-to-Back Drop Is Worst Since 2009 as Turnaround Panned

(Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co.’s stock plunge deepened as its top leaders failed to soothe shareholder concerns about the turnaround plan for the beleaguered icon of American business.

Chief Executive Officer John Flannery acknowledged that it’s “show-me-time” for investors as the company seeks to show concrete results from the overhaul he outlined a day ago. In an interview Tuesday on CNBC, he said he wasn’t surprised by the negative stock reaction after “we disappointed people with some tough news,” including a dividend cut and a lower 2018 earnings forecast.

GE's Back-to-Back Drop Is Worst Since 2009 as Turnaround Panned

Flannery plans to focus GE on three businesses -- power, aviation and health-care equipment -- while exiting others that have long defined the 125-year-old manufacturer. The highly anticipated strategy stopped short of a full-scale breakup or other radical change, leaving investors to question how quickly GE can recover from problems such as a slowdown in the power-generation market.

“There’s a big challenge ahead of GE,” said Scott Lawson, vice president at Westwood Holdings Group Inc., which sold most of its GE shares earlier this year. After Monday’s presentation, “you really have no reason to change your outlook on the business.”

The shares sank 5.9 percent to $17.90 at the close in New York, capping the worst two-day decline since March 2009. The stock price is at its lowest level in almost six years.

GE on Monday said it would explore options to get out of industries such as lighting and locomotive-manufacturing, while also weighing an exit of its stake in Baker Hughes, a provider of oil-field equipment and services. GE will retain businesses that accounted for about 80 percent of revenue last year.

The company also cut its quarterly dividend in half -- to 12 cents a share -- and dramatically lowered per-share profit expectations for next year from the $2 target it has discussed since 2015. Under GE’s new forecast, earnings will be $1 to $1.07 a share in 2018, which Flannery called a “reset” year.

Protracted Turnaround

“The company’s turnaround will now be more protracted than previously anticipated,” Deane Dray, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note. He cut his rating on GE Tuesday to sector perform and reduced the share-price target to $20 from $25.

“The bottom line is that Mr. Flannery’s plan fell short of the sweeping reset that investors were looking for,” he said.

Chief Financial Officer Jamie Miller made a case for GE’s prospects during a presentation Tuesday at a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. conference. Flannery plans to continue the Wall Street appeal Wednesday at a UBS Group AG event.

Legacy issues with pension and insurance operations could continue to weigh on the company as it deals with challenges in the power market, according to Jeff Sprague, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners. With little hope of a near-term rebound, investors could be in for a “slow grind,” he said in a note to clients.

“We believe GE has set a plausible guidance framework for 2018, but are not confident there is a strong growth outlook off the new base,” wrote Sprague, who cut his price target to $18 from $20. “Power markets will likely remain challenged through the end of the decade. Aviation looks strong, but is in a 10-year upcycle that won’t run forever, and Healthcare just plods along.”

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