General Electric (NYSE:GE) has been trailing down steadily for the past 12 months, but new CEO John Flannery is looking to change that. This upcoming investor day marks Flannery's first in the C-suite, and many analysts and investors are eager to find out how he's looking to change the company.
Listen to this Industry Focus: Energy clip to find out what Sarah Priestley and Sean O'Reilly are going to be watching out for in the investor day, and how drastically Flannery might change the future of one of the longest-lived companies in America.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Nov. 2, 2017.
Sarah Priestley: There's been a lot of rumors around it. But, what are you looking for when they announce?
Sean O'Reilly: It depends. You could do the ExxonMobil route. We've had this downturn in the oil sector for a long time. Is it the three-year anniversary this Thanksgiving? We called it with Crowe and Muckerman, the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, OPEC refused to cut production in 2014. But, ExxonMobil has kept up their dividend. I think that used literally the same words, sacrosanct, that we're going to do this. Their balance sheet is so big. You issue debt, you have a little cash flow, it's fine, and you ride it out. I'm of the opinion that, in order to really get things going for GE and be here in another 125 years, I need to go all in on the innovation and growth. You look at Google, for example. I think they make $26 billion, and they spent $12 billion on R&D. That actually borders on irresponsible. That's a lot of money. There's all these moonshots. GE, market share, they're No. 2 in the world for making wind turbines, for example. That business, how many wind turbines were there 20 or 30 years ago? They need to be doing more of that in order to really maintain this leadership position in corporate America and the world. Let's just face it: things are changing. It's faster now.
Priestley: You actually said this earlier, you made the an analogy with Jack Welch talking about how he used to sell the big companies in order to fund some of these ventures. And that's possibly something we could see. Flannery plans to sell about $20 billion worth of businesses.
O'Reilly: That's walking around money. [laughs]
Priestley: Yeah. On the chopping block is the transport division, I think that contributed $4.7 billion of total revenue of $124. And then, the Healthcare technology segment, which is Centricity. I actually don't know much about Centricity.
O'Reilly: I wish.
Priestley: That's also potentially going to be up for sale. So, we might see some of this legacy plan that used to be inactive revisited. But, we're certainly going to see a new operating process put in place. We're also going to see a change in how they communicate to investors. I don't know if you've seen any of this, but the SEC sent them a commentary note to say they're kind of irresponsible and how they present to investors.
O'Reilly: This is the old story about GE's creative accounting.
Priestley: Absolutely. It's Jeff Bornstein, right, the ex-CFO.
O'Reilly: He's out now, right?
Priestley: He is out, and understandably, I think if you take into consideration the fact that Immelt confirmed the guidance last December of, what was it, $2 a share?
O'Reilly: The number, the number $2.12 popped into my head for some reason but I have no idea...
Priestley: Well, they're going to miss it by about 50%, so it is irresponsible. And I think that use a lot of terms that aren't generic in the industry. For example, their non-GAAP core EPS is worded as "industrial operating plus verticals/EPS."
O'Reilly: Say that five times fast, right? Everybody worships Jack Welch. And he did some things there that were very admirable. But the bottom line for that man was, as I understand it, EPS growth, earnings-per-share growth. And any investor that's starting to learn about accounting, earnings per share is this wonderfully creative --
Priestley: Fudgeable. [laughs]
O'Reilly: -- fudgeable, GAAP-y thing. I can't even say what you just said, plus vertical ... why?
Priestley: The good news is, the incoming CFO, Jamie Miller, she's promised to go back to basics and revisit --
O'Reilly: Finance 101.
Priestley: Yeah, so that's perfect.
O'Reilly: I do have to ask you since I have you here -- I'm going to play host for a second -- what did you guys at Rolls-Royce, what was the opinion on the floor of GE Aviation?
Priestley: We always saw GE as our main competitor, despite the fact that they're a much bigger company. But in aviation, it's a two-horse race.
Priestley: And I think the perception was they had a lot better manufacturing processes, that they probably had less bureaucracy, although I think that's a bad perception. I think every company has a huge amount of bureaucracy, particularly in an industry so heavily regulated as that.
O'Reilly: Right. Because they fly planes with people in them.
Priestley: Yes. But, the perception definitely was, they were a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of the power by the hour industrial internet applications, a little bit ahead of the curve in the manufacturing process. What Rolls-Royce really holds there is the innovation and the engineering quality.