Baker Hughes (BHGE) - Get Report shares traded lower Wednesday after the oilfield services group said majority owner General Electric (GE) - Get Report would trim its holding to less than 50% as it moves to raise $3 billion and reduce its overall debt.
General Electric, which had flagged the Baker Hughes reduction for years, plans to sell 120.75 million shares in the Houston-based group, around a fifth of its overall total, the company said. The sale plan, however, comes just weeks after Harry Markopolos, an accounting expert who first found issues surrounding Bernie Madoff's investment fraud. accused GE of improperly including Baker Hughes' income, capital and cash to flatter its balance sheet, a charge GE has strenuously denied.
Baker Hughes shares were marked 2.8% lower Wednesday to change hands at $23.36 each, a move that would trim the stock's year-to-date gain to around 8.5%. GE shares were also under pressure, falling 0.22% to $9.10 each in pre-market trading.
"GE stands behind its financials. We operate to the highest-level of integrity in our financial reporting and we have clearly laid out our financial obligations in great detail," the company said in a statement to TheStreet last month. "We remain focused on running our business every day and following the strategic path we have laid out."
GE CEO Larry Culp, who has been attempting to gain traction for the group's ongoing turnaround plans since taking over from John Flannery in October of last year, told investors in February that reducing the Baker Hughes stake was one of the company's options that could "generate cash to help bring down our leverage."
GE posted stronger-than-expected second quarter earnings on July 31, and boosted its full-year profit guidance, as Culp noted "steady progress on our strategic priorities".
GE said its loss for the three months ending in June was pegged at 1 penny per share, or 3 cents per share when looking at continuing operations. On an adjusted basis, however, GE earned 17 per share, a figure that compares to last year's 8 cent profit and a Street consensus forecast of 12 cents per share. Group revenues, GE said, fell 4.3% from last year to $28.8 billion, a tally that modestly topped analysts' forecasts of $26.6 billion.
Looking into 2019, GE said it sees adjusted earnings per share in the region of 55 cents to 65 cents per share, and altered its forecast for industrial free-cash flow to a range of negative $1 billion to positive $1 billion.