NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric (GE) - Get Report boosted the low end of its forecast for industrial earnings amid signs that CEO Jeffrey Immelt's reshaping of the company is getting positive results.
GE now expects 2015 industrial operating earnings will be $1.13 to $1.20, up from a previous forecast of $1.10 to $1.20. Profit from those businesses -- which range from jet engines to health-care equipment and locomotives -- plus the finance businesses that Immelt plans to keep after a dramatic sell-off in GE Capital's loan portfolio rose 19% to 31 cents a share in the second quarter.
Earnings of 28 cents a share, excluding some pension costs and GE Capital restructuring expenses, compared with the 28-cent average of estimates from analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Total sales grew 2% to $32.8 billion, with manufacturing revenue from businesses including jet engines, wind turbines and locomotives of $29.6 billion, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said Friday.
"GE had a strong second quarter, with good industrial organic growth and exceptional cash generation," CEO Jeff Immelt said in a news release. "The environment remains one of slow growth and volatility, particularly in growth markets, while the U.S. is gradually improving."
The backlog of equipment and service orders for industrial businesses grew 1.5% from the first quarter of the year to $272 billion, GE said. Its cloud-based Industrial Internet business, which uses Predix software analytics to collect information from equipment sensors and fine-tune performance, garnered $1.9 billion in orders in the first six months of the year.
GE climbed 0.6% to $27.20 in midday trading in New York, for a total gain of 14% in the past six months.
Revenue climbed in four of the company's seven industrial units, including Power & Water, GE Aviation and GE transportation, as the company booked purchases including $200 million in locomotives from Pakistan and $19 billion in jet-engine orders and commitments at the Paris Air Show in June. Total profit in industrial businesses climbed 5% to $4.36 billion, GE said.
Sales of GE Capital's loan portfolio were robust, the company said, with $100 billion planned for the year and $68 billion announced already.
As much as $30 billion of cash will be returned to investors this year, Immelt said in the statement.
"We're gaining momentum toward our long-term goals, and going forward, we can give investors strong industrial earnings-per-share growth while returning significant cash through dividends and buyback," he said on an earnings call.
Many analysts had been cautious about GE's performance in the second quarter as the company encountered a delay in the $3.3 billion sale of its appliance unit to Electrolux (ELUXY) and grappled with currency fluctuations including swings in the euro. The sell-off of most of GE Capital presented another unknown.
Credit Suisse predicted GE would come in at $1.69 earnings per share primarily because of the company's failure to book expected earnings from the Electrolux sale -- which is being held up by an antitrust lawsuit from the Justice Department -- and is now unlikely to occur before the fourth quarter pending regulatory approval.
"Our EPS estimate is about $0.05 lower than consensus because of the delays in appliance divestment, which would have added $0.04 to the second-quarter gains," the bank said in a report.
The delay of the appliance-business sale is not a "critical issue," as GE can still sell appliance plants to LG (LGEAF) or Samsung (SSNLF) to book the profits, according to Nicholas Heymann, an equity analyst with William Blair.
"If GE has to divest some of its plants, it could potentially result in a smaller gain than originally anticipated," Heymann said in an e-mail.