General Electric Co. (GE - Get Report) helped lead the S&P 500 to its best month since October 2015 after posting stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter sales and reaching a settlement over a subprime mortgage probe with the Department of Justice.
General Electric said adjusted non-GAAP earnings for the three months ended in December came in at 17 cents per share, down around 36% from the same period last year and well shy of the 22 cent Wall Street forecast. Group revenues, GE said, rose 5% to $33.28 billion, firmly ahead of the consensus forecast of $32.6 billion.
GE also said it was able to retain or generate around $10 billion in cash over the quarter thanks to its dividend cut and the sale of parts of its stake in oil services group Baker Hughes (BHGE - Get Report) . Cash flow from operations, however, slowed 8.6% from last year to around $6.4 billion.
"Our strategy is clear: de-leverage our balance sheet and strengthen our businesses, starting with Power," said CEO Larry Culp. "To do this, we are improving execution, customer focus, and how we set priorities across GE."
"I'm confident in our team, technology, and the global reach of GE's brand and relationships.," Culp added. "We have more work to do, but I'm encouraged by the changes we're making to strengthen GE and create value for our shareholders, customers, and employees."
General Electric shares rose 11.7% to close Thursday at $10.16, almost wiping out all of stock's three month decline.
GE also said it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle a 2015 investigation into its defunct WMC mortgage business for $1.5 billion, a figure that matches the amount the company set aside for liability in the probe in April of last year.
Culp 55, replaced John Flannery as CEO in October of last year following a thirteen year tenure at the helm of Danaher Corp.
The bombshell announcement, which included a warning that weakness in its GE Power business will make it miss 2018 free cash flow and earnings guidance as it takes a $23 billion goodwill hit to the struggling division, triggered significant volatility in GE shares amid serious questions over the fate of the group's long-standing dividend, which was eventually reduced to a single penny in November.
GE said Thursday that its Power division, which posted an $872 million fourth quarter loss, faced "continued execution and operational issues on equipment projects and transactional services".