Updated to include first quarter earnings reported April 17.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric (GE) CEO Jeff Immelt's ambitious goal of increasing the industrial share of earnings to 90% by 2018 -- a 55% jump from last year -- signals more than just the unwinding of the finance arm, GE Capital.
It also represents a broader strategy of tapping energy and power markets in undeveloped and emerging economies. Among such projects is the recently announced $1.7 billion power contract in Egypt, hammered out late last year. The project, a 2.7-gigawatt, 46-turbine power system, is slated for May.
"You look at the company moving forward, and it is becoming a base infrastructure company," said Nicholas Heymann, co-head of global industrial infrastructure research at William Blair. "They're selling what the nondeveloped countries and the emerging countries of the world need: water, power, transportation, oil and gas exploration, and health care. And this market for base infrastructure around the world is exponentially more advantageous to GE than its market for financial services."
GE beat analysts' estimates of first quarter operating earnings, reporting 31 cents a share excluding certain items. The company overall reported a loss of $13.57 billion compared with a profit of $3 billion, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue fell to $29.4 billion from $34.18 billion a year ago. The company had said it would book $16 billion in charges in the quarter to repatriate cash and record certain impairments. Consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters said analysts expected GE to report quarterly earnings per share of 30 cents on $34.23 billion in revenue.
Shrinking GE Capital is a decision that will allow GE to free itself of certain regulatory requirements imposed when it was classified as a systematically important financial institution, a designation that added rigorous capital liquidity and stress tests to certain financial institutions to curb risk identified during the financial crisis of 2008.
"We are positive about this move and the focus that it gives GE going forward," said Peter Rocca, a principal with Palisade Asset Management. "This change removes the majority of the risks associated with being a large financial company and the drag that all of the financial regulations have had on their growth. We believe GE's growth going forward will come from increasing global demand and their ability now to focus their efforts on their industrial products and services."
The move is also designed to encourage a more stable cash flow position, as "the ultimate transformation of the company back to its industrial roots is clearly viewed as reducing uncertainty, eliminating a 'black box' effect associated with one-quarter of its future earnings from financial services," according to a William Blair report released Monday.
GE may post earnings of $1.75 a share for 2015, up 6% from 2014, William Blair projected, and $1.90 per share for 2016. William Blair maintains a $30 price target for GE, which last traded around $27.37 a share.
"To accomplish the accelerated pace of downsizing its financial service business, GE will take a $16 billion charge in the first quarter of 2015 ($4 billion cash, $12 billion noncash), and $7 billion of additional future business exit costs ($2 billion cash, $4 billion noncash) over the next couple years," according to the report.