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General Electric Price Guidance Is Withdrawn by J.P. Morgan

A J.P. Morgan analyst withdrew his price guidance on General Electric, citing factors including its debt load and "challenged end markets."
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A J.P. Morgan analyst on Monday withdrew his price guidance on General Electric  (GE) - Get General Electric Company Report stock, pegging the industrial giant's fair value at less than $5 a share.

The Boston company's shares at last check were down 2.4% to $6.45.

"GE is operating through a difficult period, born from a combination of over a decade of leverage-related issues that, combined with challenged end markets and intensified competition, have left the company with significant liabilities and little free cash flow to support," analyst Stephen Tusa said in a note to investors. 

Tusa said GE has undertaken major portfolio moves to reduce debt as a response, further diluting future fundamental levels of earnings and free cash flow.

While crediting management for delivering better free cash flow in 2019, Tusa said "management's lack of guidance is keeping a persistently optimistic Street from resetting, making the stock look cheaper than it is using published [consensus. We] expect a collapse in the forward second-half 2021 curve to come soon."

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Some 12 of 20 other Wall Street analysts who cover GE currently recommend buying its shares, and most of them expect GE to be free-cash-flow positive in the second half, Reuters reported. 

"Given what we view as a low quality of earnings," Tusa said, "we believe free cash flow remains the most relevant metric for valuation and the stock screens expensive on this basis, with investors giving the benefit of doubt for improvement in the out years."

Unlike its peers, GE continues to have no official guidance, Tusa said, which implies difficulty seeing three to six months out, while debt maturities and options resets suggest GE does not see normal until 2024, the analyst said.

Tusa said he continued to see structural weaknesses in GE's aviation and power businesses, combined with still relatively high financial leverage, and numerous tail liabilities at both GE and GE Capital Services as "all hurdles to a speedy turnaround."

In July, GE posted a wider-than-expected second-quarter loss but said its cash burn rate was starting to improve and would likely turn positive by 2021.