Even more important for investors was Immelt's statement that the exit from NBCUniversal would "increase and accelerate the buyback" of common shares. "Our Board has authorized an increase to our buyback from the existing $25 billion to $35 billion through 2015. As of today, we have about $23 billion remaining and our plan is to buy back approximately $10 billion worth of stock this year alone." GE continues to make moves to support its goals of growing its energy business and increasing its percentage of revenue from industrial operations. The company on April 8 agreed to purchase oil drilling equipment manufacturer Lufkin Industries ( LUFK) for $3.3 billion in cash.
First-Quarter PreviewGE reports its first-quarter results early Friday morning, with a consensus earnings estimate of 35 cents a share among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, but increasing from 34 cents in the first quarter of 2012.
GE CapitalDuring the fourth quarter, GE Capital paid the parent company $1.0 dividend, for a total of $6.4 billion in dividends kicked upstairs during 2012.
GE Capital has "become a cash machine," according to Graseck, who wrote, "we see potential for $30bn cash distribution over 2012/15e," assuming the finance unit maintains a Basel I Tier 1 common equity ratio of 10.0%. Graseck estimates GE Capital's earnings for the first quarter will come in at $2.216 billion, increasing 24% from $1.792 billion in the first quarter of 2012. She also estimates the financial arm will pay the parent company a first-quarter dividend of $665 million. "We model a 30% payout ratio of projected GECS earnings," she wrote. GE Capital had $539.2 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, declining from $548.5 billion a year earlier, in keeping with the company's plan to reduce the size and risk of its finance business. Excluding non-interest bearing liabilities, cash and equivalents, the finance unit's "ending net investment" was $418.6 billion as of Dec. 31, already below Immelt's earlier target of $425 billion. While shrinking GE Capital, GE has also worked to improve the unit's liquidity mix. The company in January completed its acquisition of Metlife Bank's deposit business, as MetLife ( MET) continued to work to escape Federal Reserve regulation as a bank holding company. GE Capital added about $6.4 billion in deposits and an "established online platform" to gather retail deposits.
Industrial SegmentsThe consensus first-quarter operating revenue estimate for General Electric is $34.513 billion, declining from $39.327 billion in the fourth quarter and $35.182 billion during the first quarter of 2012.
Most analysts are expecting solid year-over-year revenue increases across GE's various industrial groups, except for the power and water group. Graseck estimates Power & Water revenue will decline 19% year-over-year to $5.295 billion in the first quarter, from $6.551 billion a year earlier.
GE's StockGeneral Electric's shares closed at $22.76 Wednesday, returning 9% this year, following a 21% return 2012. The shares trade for 12.3 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $1.85. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $1.67. Based on a quarterly payout of 19 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 3.34%. GE data by YCharts
Interested in more on General Electric? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock. -- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla. >Contact by Email. Follow @PhilipvanDoorn