What happened

Shares of General Electric (GE 1.25%) soared on Thursday, rising more than 14% by 11:15 a.m. EST. Driving the industrial giant's rally was its fourth-quarter results.

So what

GE hauled in $33.3 billion of revenue during the fourth quarter, which beat expectations by slightly more than $1 billion, driven by strength in its renewable-energy, aviation, and oil and gas segments, which offset weakness elsewhere. Adjusted earnings, on the other hand, came in at $0.17 per share, which missed the consensus estimate by $0.05 per share. Investors, however, overlooked the lighter profit and focused on the positives.

A dollar bill folded as an arrow that goes down but then back up higher.

Image source: Getty Images.

For starters, the company has undertaken several actions to shore up its balance sheet, including reducing its dividend, selling down its stake in Baker Hughes, and increasing its retained stake in Wabtec following the close of the upcoming transportation transaction, which will collectively generate or retain about $10 billion in cash. In addition to that, GE Industrial and GE Capital signed or completed billions of dollars in asset sales last year. Finally, the company settled an investigation into its accounting practices with the Department of Justice, agreeing to pay a civil penalty of $1.5 billion, which was in line with its reserve estimate.

While the company has "more work to do" according to CEO Larry Culp, it has a clear strategy. That plan will focus on continuing to improve its balance sheet and strengthen its businesses, starting with the power segment, which has been under significant pressure over the past year.

Now what

GE is still a work in progress. The company has several strategic initiatives underway to streamline its focus, including completing its transportation transaction with Wabtec as well as an initial public offering of its healthcare unit. In addition to that, the company eventually plans to unload the rest of Baker Hughes and could sell other assets as well. Given all that uncertainty, investors might want to continue to watch this stock from the sidelines, because the bull case isn't entirely clear at the moment.

Check out the latest GE earnings call transcript.