General Electric Co. (GE) - Get Report is one of the world's biggest companies, so its new CEO, John Flannery, won't be able to thoroughly familiarize himself with its operations and refine its performance targets overnight.
That doesn't mean the manufacturing giant founded by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s will be in limbo from the time the 55-year-old Flannery takes the reins from Jeffrey Immelt on Aug. 1 until he presents his strategy to investors in November.
"I'm not worried about internal paralysis," Flannery told analysts and investors during the Boston-based company's quarterly earnings call on Friday, June 21. GE has reiterated its full-year profit goal of as much as $1.70 a share, with at least $12 billion in cash from industrial operations, and will be working diligently to deliver on both targets, he said.
The former head of GE Healthcare, Flannery outlined the review he's undertaking when his promotion to the company's top job was announced in mid-June.
Immelt, his predecessor, has spent the past several years reshaping the conglomerate he inherited from Jack Welch by shedding businesses such as television, appliances and most of lending while investing heavily in digital manufacturing through the Predix software platform.
He's retiring as GE grapples with pressure from activist investor Trian Partners to boost earnings to as much as $2.33 a share in 2018, an even more ambitious target than the $2 goal Immelt has warned may be "on the high end," as well as a falling stock price and a challenging natural-resource market.
While GE is the world's 14th-largest company, according to Forbes magazine, its shares have dropped 21% over the past 12 months to $25.91 as oil-equipment sales were curbed by lower crude prices and a government debate over possible cuts to Obamacare hampered purchases of health-care equipment.
In the past month, Flannery has begun a "series of deep dives into each of the businesses, looking at everything you would expect," he said Friday. "What is the market outlook? Where can we grow? Where can we improve margins? How is the cash conversion? What returns are we getting on investments?"
General Electric, which garnered $29.6 billion in revenue in the three months through June, drew about 24% of that from its power business, 22% from jet-engine sales and 16% from medical equipment, with the rest divided between divisions such as oil and gas equipment and locomotives.
Even though the arrival of a new CEO is a comparative rarity at the manufacturer -- Immelt held the job for 16 years and Welch ran the company for 20 -- morale is strong and the company's workforce of 300,000 is committed to helping Flannery succeed, said Jeff Bornstein, who will continue as CFO and has been promoted to vice chairman.
"You're certainly going to see the organization rethinking a lot of what we do and how we do it," as the new CEO examines GE's portfolio, operating rhythms and what areas of growth it wants to invest in, Bornstein said in a telephone interview.
"That may be a little disruptive, but it's also enormously healthy," he added. "People's openness to rethinking things or thinking about things differently or challenging many things we've taken for granted is encouraged, and people get excited about that."
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Editor's Pick: Originally published July 21.
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