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General Electric (GE)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 21, 2011 8:30 am ET


Trevor Schauenberg - Vice President of Corporate Investor Communications

Keith Sherin - Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer

Jeffrey Immelt - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Member of Public Responsibilities Committee


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Terry Darling - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Steven Winoker - Bernstein Research

Jason Feldman - UBS Investment Bank

Robert Cornell - Barclays Capital

C. Stephen Tusa - JP Morgan Chase & Co

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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the General Electric Fourth Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] My name is Michael, and I will be your conference coordinator today. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the program over to your host for today's conference, Trevor Schauenberg, Vice President of Investor Communications. Please proceed.

Trevor Schauenberg

Thank you, Michael. Good morning, and welcome everyone. We are pleased to host today's fourth quarter and total year 2010 earnings webcast. Regarding the materials for this webcast, we issued a press release earlier this morning, and the presentation slides are available via the webcast. The slides are available for download and printing on our website at As always, we'll have time for Q&A at the end.

Elements of this presentation are forward-looking, and our based on our best view of the world and our businesses as we see them today. Those elements can change as the world changes, so please interpret them in that light. For today's webcast, we have our Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt; and our Vice Chairman and CFO, Keith Sherin. Now I'd like to turn it over to our Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt.

Jeffrey Immelt

Great, Trevor. Thanks. Good morning, everyone. I want to give you, on the first page, an overview of a really good quarter for the company and confirm strong outlook as we think about 2011.

The environment continues to improve, really, it's broader and deeper as we look across the portfolio. A good strength in orders. Losses are down. Credit demand is up. Across the rail and aircraft market very strong. As I've said in the past, we just think the economy can get a little bit stronger everyday. We had good top line performance, the best in a while, 6% industrial organic growth. And then, infrastructure orders 12%, equipment up 20%, services up 5%. We end the year with a very strong backlog.

Earnings growth continues to improve. Continuing EPS, up 33%. Capital had another strong quarter and in total Industrial segment profit, including NBC, was up 8%. We did do a lot of restructuring in the quarter. We had $0.10 industrial tax benefits offset by $0.10 restructuring and other charges, including the Hudson remediation. And so, I think, what we've been able to do is significantly risk reduce 2011.

Our execution was strong. CFOA in the high end. We end with a lot of cash in the balance sheet. Operating profit rates at 17.5%. The capital portfolio transformation is advancing. We had a very good value gap in 2010. We build our operating plans and '11 expecting a lower value gap. And we're executing, I think, a balanced and disciplined in capital allocation plan. We bought back $1.8 billion of stock. We've had two dividend increases. The first quarter '11 dividend will be 40% higher than the first quarter of '10. And we're executing on valuable infrastructure acquisitions. So again, I think a good overview for the company.

On the next page, orders grew at 12%. This is the highest order intake since 2007. We end 2010 with a record backlog and it's very broad based. I think if you look across the Energy segment, Oil & Gas is very strong. Service is growing. We still expect energy equipment to turn positive in 2011 but a lot of good signs. Aviation, again, very strong. Healthcare growth continues. And transportation recovery, there's fewer locomotives part. We had 240 North American locos. So again we feel very good about the backlog and how we're positioned going forward just given the overall strength of our order base.

On the next page, on execution, our segment operating profit rate was up 10 basis points. Again, as I said, a positive value gap. Healthcare, volume leverage. Aviation was impacted by some onetime costs in the fourth quarter, and we think that improves going into 2011. And then R&D was a full point of impact. And we grew our operating profit rate, despite the fact we've increased R&D investment by 21%. And so we entered 2011 with a full backlog of products. Really, the R&D spend is in our run rate. And we just see a 50 new NPIs in Healthcare. Significant global investment in country for country. So we really have a great foundation for organic growth, and we're able to deliver on operations, while investing for future growth.

On the next page, on cash. Our cash flow ended up at the high end of our range at $14.7 billion. We improved our working capital turns to buy one full turn. And if you look at the right-hand side of the page, our consolidated cash is $79 billion. Cash at the parent, is a record in my history at $19 billion. And you can just see the way we executed this year on CFOA, dispositions. And so, we really entered 2011 with a lot of financial flexibility and just a lot of cash, available cash, at the parent. So we feel good about that.

Lastly, before I turn it over to Keith, really, a lot has happened vis-à-vis NBCU since the December meeting. I think when we were together in December, we thought we would close NBCU transaction. That slip into January. We should close the transaction next Friday.

As we said, this is a high pretax gain, a small after-tax gain. we'll have about $3 billion tax charge that will impact the GE tax rate in 2011. So we were booking at that higher rate through the third quarter. Keith will go through this in a little bit more detail. We will reverse that in the fourth quarter. And we'll have a higher tax rate in the first quarter of '11 and for the total year. We still expect about a $0.05 EPS impact from the NBCU going from 80% to 49% in 2011. And we'll use the gain to fund additional restructuring in 2011.

There's no change to the overall outlook of how we think about 2011 or 2010 from this because any gain will be used against restructuring. But it does change the tax rate.

Keith Sherin

Tax rate as you said, we're going to have a pretax gain plus a high tax charge it doesn't change the EPS.

Jeffrey Immelt

Exactly. And then from a parent cash standpoint, we ended the year at $19 billion. Once we close next Friday, we'll have about $22 billion of cash. And we plan to continue to execute a balanced and disciplined capital allocation program.

You've seen what we've done with the dividends. We've relaunched the buyback and then we've announced four transactions that are really right over the plate for us in our sweet spot in Energy and Healthcare. Really, the right size deals are going to help us grow. So this is really, I think, a good news page for investors. So with that, let me turn over to Keith to go through the fourth quarter financials.

Keith Sherin

Okay, Jeff. Thanks a lot. I'm going to start with the fourth quarter summary. We had continuing operations revenues of $41.4 billion, which were up 1%. Industrial sales, $28.7 billion, grew 1% and financial services revenue at $12.8 billion was down 2%.

We earned $3.9 billion in net income. That's up 31%. And for earnings per share, we earned $0.36, including the cost of the preferred dividends. So earnings per share were up 33%. As Jeff covered, the total cash flow from operating activities was $14.7 billion for the year at the high end of our original range.

And let me spend a minute on taxes. I think it was one of the more complicated quarters for taxes. We had several large moving parts affecting the fourth quarter. The largest was whether NBC would close. Obviously, that didn't, and that had an impact. We also had a potential IRS settlement as they were completing the audit of the 2003 to 2005 tax year. And we didn't know exactly what the amount of the settlement would be and whether it would have been completed entirely in the fourth quarter.

And then finally, we had to estimate how much restructuring were going to have in the fourth quarter, while we were in open negotiations with the EPA over the Hudson. So here are details on how those items came out.

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