General Electric (NYSE:GE) continues to have many strong, positive catalysts that I still believe will drive GE stock much higher.
One noteworthy, broad point is that GE’s CEO, Larry Culp, said during the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call that its results would be “meaningfully better” in 2020 and 2021.
Defying the many people who were bearish on GE stock, Culp has either kept or is in line to fulfill his important promises and projections so far. He said that the company’s debt was manageable and that has proven to be the case; GE is on track to meet the CEO’s debt reduction projections.
Importantly, no one is talking about GE declaring bankruptcy anymore. He said that the performance of GE’s businesses could greatly improve, and the company’s Power, Renewables, Aviation, and Healthcare have all rebounded impressively in at least some areas.
So Culp’s guidance for meaningful improvement in 2020 will probably materialize, starting with the Q1 guidance that the company will provide when it reports its Q4 results on Jan. 29.
Moreover, as I previously noted, GE’s main businesses are all improving. I believe that they continued to rebound last quarter, due to the positive trends for each business outlined below.
Gas Power and GE Stock
At the end of Q3, the Power unit, which many bears had said was imploding, had a backlog of $87 billion, up 4% year-over-year, excluding businesses that were sold. The revenue of the Gas Power business was up 3%, excluding businesses that were sold, and Gas Power accounted for $72 billion of the $87 billion backlog.
The company shipped 12 turbines in Q3, up from 11 during the same period a year earlier. It booked orders for 17 gas turbines during the quarter, even though some of its deals slipped to Q4.
GE said that the utilization of Gas Power’s products was “good.” While there was a strong demand for upgrades, the business’s results were affected negatively by a decline in the number of outages that needed to be fixed, but I think that was probably an outlier that should even out over time.
Power’s revenue slipped 3% YoY, excluding businesses that were sold, due to weakness in its steam and nuclear businesses. But Culp said that the margins of the nuclear business can rise, while the steam business was undergoing improvements.
And more importantly, the outlook for natural gas demand continues to be relatively strong and much better than many skeptics were predicting two or three years ago.
In an article published in Forbes last month, energy consultant Jude Clemente wrote that the ” immense, low-cost gas resource base encourages rapid growth across the production, transport, and trading, and consumption chain.”
In other words, demand for cheap natural gas is going to jump going forward, according to Clemente. Meanwhile, between January 2019 and November 2019, China’s natural gas demand increased 9% year-over-year, and “Chinese demand is expected to continue to grow until 2050,” according to OilPrice.com.
Aviation and GE Stock
The unit’s revenue rose 8% in Q3, and its operating profit rose 3% to $1.7 billion. At the end of the quarter, its backlog was an incredible $253 billion, up 20% year-over-year.
The unit will continue to be hurt by the issues with Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) MAX plane, but Boeing’s decision to stop production of the plane could actually be positive in the near-term for GE. After all, GE loses money on producing and selling plane engines (it makes money by providing additional parts for the engines and servicing them after they’ve been used for a while).
Moreover, the unit’s huge backlog and many new orders from Airbus (OTC:EADSY) probably kept it going strong in Q4. Given those strong, positive catalysts, the unit will probably keep delivering very impressive results for the rest of 2020.
Additionally, new orders from overseas, such as the recent $4 billion deal between a GE joint venture and Qatar Airways, should enable Aviation’s results to keep boosting GE stock.
Renewables and GE Stock
In Q3, the unit’s orders soared 30% YoY, while its equipment orders jumped a very impressive 66% and its revenue rose 13% YoY. Culp said the unit was benefiting from “strength in international orders and (higher) order pricing.”
On the other hand, Renewables lost $98 million, down from a profit of $116 million a year earlier. Older contracts and the consolidation of joint ventures the company had previously acquired dragged down the unit’s bottom line.
Those issues likely eased in Q4 and are likely to further recede this quarter as more time elapses since the acquisition. The huge increase in the unit’s orders bodes very well for the unit.
The offshore wind deal the company signed with China in November also bodes well for GE. As I noted in a previous column, under the deal, the company will “provide 715 megawatts of its offshore wind turbines to China. That’s a lot of turbines.”
All told, GE won 1.2 gigawatts of wind power orders from China last year. The company should win many more lucrative offshore wind turbine orders going forward. A research firm estimated that the U.S. wind energy market alone could be worth $70 billion by 2030, according to CNBC. GE is currently the leading producer of U.S. wind turbines.
Healthcare and GE Stock
In Q3, the unit’s top line rose 5% YoY, and its profit jumped 13% to $974 million. Its orders rose just 1%, though.
But Healthcare appears to be innovating very effectively. Culp said it “received the industry’s first FDA clearance to embed AI apps on a medical device for triage.”
As I pointed out in a previous column, GE announced on Dec. 1 that it had launched 30 new, money-saving healthcare products. I continue to believe that demand for at least some of these products will be very strong because they save radiologists, who are very expensive, a great deal of time. The unit’s growth should accelerate meaningfully over time as a result.
The Bottom Line on GE Stock
So far, Culp has kept his important promises and met his crucial targets. So investors should be willing to trust his statement that the company’s results will improve in 2020 and 2021.
Moreover, all of GE’s units seem to be improving, and their growth looks poised to accelerate meaningfully, making GE stock attractive.
As of this writing, Larry Ramer owned shares of GE stock.