General Electric (GE) shares fell modestly on Thursday, a day after its CEO Jeff Immelt spoke at an investor conference and seemed to waver a bit on the company's $2 a share guidance for 2017 earnings.
Asked by an analyst during a Q&A session at the $2 is a makeable number, Immelt replied, "It's going to be in the range."
Earlier this month GE shares hit a 52-week low as the company struggles with cash flow issues and pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Group.
That's prompted some GE investors and followers to ponder a possible dividend cut in the next year or two. More immediately, it's also made some wonder about the likelihood the company may cut its full-year guidance.
GE shares fell 0.1% in early Thursday trading, to $27.80.
The performance is likely to strengthen the odds that activist investor Nelson Peltz, who's owned the stock since 2015, may up his efforts to force change at the company. Among other moves, he could try to convince GE's board that a Trian representative should get a directorship to help propel a strategy for the industrial giant laid out in a 2015 white paper.
Without a seat, Peltz's track record suggests that Trian may soon issue a publicly-disclosed letter to management with details about what GE needs to do to meet the activist's goal of $45 a share implied value by the end of 2017.
"GE's weak cash flow has become worse in recent quarters ... The company appears to be operating relatively 'close to the line' in terms of sufficient cash generation to continue to fund such a robust dividend and share repurchase program," Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch said in a Wednesday research note.
General Electric last cut its dividend during the financial crisis in 2009. Then, it trimmed the payout by 68% in the first such action in 71 years.
"If the cash flow bounces right back, then you shouldn't worry about GE," Cramer said last week. "If it doesn't, then the Deutsche Bank note is going to hold true."
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