General Electric Warns Coronavirus Recovery May Take Longer Than Expected

GE's Larry Culp warns 2020 free cash flow will be negative.

General Electric's  (GE) - Get Report top executive warned Thursday that the industrial giant's recovery from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown may take longer than expected.

Shares of the Boston-based company were off nearly 3% to $7.07.

Chief Executive Larry Culp, speaking to investors at the Bernstein Conference, said 2020 free cash flow would be negative as the company struggles with weakness in its aviation and power units due to the outbreak, according to Reuters. 

Culp also said GE expects second-quarter free cash outflow to be between negative $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion, wider than analysts' average estimate of negative $2.5 billion.

The CEO also said that the company expects commercial jet engine installs to fall about 45% in the second quarter, with sales of aircraft spares declining about 60%, Reuters said.

However, the coronavirus crisis has boosted sales of the company’s healthcare products, with second-quarter orders expected to rise more than 100%, Culp said.

GE's finances have been battered during the coronavirus pandemic because a downturn in Boeing's  (BA) - Get Report business has decimated its aviation division, leading to thousands of layoffs in what was one of the few segments of the company that was performing well.

Earlier this month, GE said it planned to reduce its global workforce in its aviation unit by as much as 25% this year due to the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic

In April, GE posted weaker-than-expected first-quarter earnings, with Culp warning that "the impact from COVID-19 materially challenged our first-quarter results, especially in Aviation, where we saw a dramatic decline in commercial aerospace as the virus spread globally in March."

Military demand in aviation remains strong, the company said Thursday. Last month, GE Aviation was awarded four Defense Department contracts valued at $707 million for jet engine work.

On Wednesday, the industrial icon announced it was selling its almost 130-year-old consumer lighting business to Savant Systems, a smart-home company. Terms weren’t disclosed.

GE has been selling off assets for several years to shore up its weakened financial position. The company sold its commercial lighting business in 2018.