General Electric (GE) - Get Report told investors Wednesday that weak energy markets won't suck the power out of its earnings growth, affirming its target of $2 per share in operating earnings in 2018 while pledging to continue to trim noncore businesses.
Boston-based GE has spent the better part of the past decade buying and selling assets and revamping its sprawling portfolio, with the energy sector set to account for nearly half of its $120 billion in annual revenue. The company, a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio, said that while oil has been tougher than they envisioned even earlier in 2016, pricing has stabilized, and other sectors of the economy look strong.
CEO Jeffrey Immelt during a presentation said that company officials are the "most optimistic we have been about the U.S. economy in many years." Guidance could actually go higher if the United States reforms its tax code, as discussed, or if energy rebounds.
Immelt, addressing the U.S. election and the policies of President-elect Donald Trump, said that tax reform, coupled with a working Export-Import Bank, would help GE and other industrials keep their factories running and employment high. The Export-Import Bank, the official export credit agency of the U. S. federal government, has been a target of Tea Party Republicans, and some fear that Trump could attempt to eliminate or neuter it following the inauguration.
He said that the idea of corporations simply manufacturing in Mexico to sell to U.S. consumers is outdated. "Over the last 15 years 85% of our gas turbines and jet engines have been sold outside the United States," Immelt said.
Shares of GE ticked up 4 cents in after-hours trading Wednesday after closing down 24 cents at $31.50 from the previous day's close.
GE also said that it expects 3D printing by 2020 will allow it to shave about $3 billion from annual manufacturing costs. The company also said its deal to combine its oil and gas assets with Baker Hughes (BHI) , announced in October, will cut 2 cents a share from earnings next year and add 4 cents per share in 2018.
GE in the past decade has sold assets, including NBC Universal, its homeland protection and securities units, its appliances business and much of its massive financial services and insurance operations, and is currently seeking buyers for its water business. The company on Wednesday said that it would also put its industrial solutions business on the market, with combined proceeds from the two deals expected to near $4 billion.
The water platform generates about $2 billion in revenue, with GE targeting a mid-2017 sale. Industrial solutions, which makes electrical distribution, protection and critical power products and could be of interest to a rival looking to cut costs, is targeted to be sold by year's end.
Including divestitures and dividends from its now much smaller but still operating GE Capital business, the conglomerate said it expects to generate about $10 billion in cash from portfolio actions in 2017.
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Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, is long GE.