Although General Electric (NYSE:GE) is considered a quintessential blue-chip stock, its earnings are far from simple. The multinational giant operates seven different industrial segments, is in the process of divesting a multifaceted financial services business, and presents its earnings with various supplemental data. There's a lot of information to digest, which makes it easy to overlook something noteworthy.
After combing through GE's first-quarter earnings, released about a week ago, here are four things you may have missed.
1. GE Capital's planned divesture weighed heavily on earnings.
In connection to GE's recently announced plan to divest the majority of GE Capital's financial assets so the company becomes more industrial focused, GE Capital took a hefty $14 billion charge against its operating earnings for the first quarter. This resulted in GE Capital reporting an operating loss of $1.25 per share, which translated to the parent company reporting a massive net loss of $13.6 billion, or $1.35 per share. Had GE not taken actions to exit the financial services business, the company would've earned $2.8 billion, or $0.27 per share.
2. Simplification is working.
In addition to GE's plan to exit the wholesale financial services industry, GE has also taken on an initiative to simply its operations so it can be more competitive and capitalize better on opportunities. After about a year into the initiative, it appears that simplification is starting to bear fruit.
During the earnings conference call, GE CEO Jeff Immelt made a connection between simplification and improved profitability:
Meanwhile simplification continues to track good results and we're seeing more benefits ahead. One of the goals for 2015 is to expand margins in both [industrial] equipment and service. We grew equipment margins by 120 basis points and service by 70 basis points in the quarter. We are making progress on margins as a company.
3. GE's industrial business is operating quite strongly.
Although GE's industrial segment was negatively affected by about $950 million thanks to the strong U.S. dollar, which decreased overall industrial revenues by 1% year over year, the operating unit experienced organic revenue growth of 3%. In total, six of its seven industrial segments grew organically during the first quarter, of which five grew their profits on a GAAP basis.
In terms of organic revenue, the only detractor was GE's aviation segment, which experienced supply chain disruptions that management believes will recover in the second quarter. On the profitability front, GE's oil and gas and its power and water segments experienced slight annual profit declines of 3% and 2%, respectively.
4. GE's industrial business is on track to earn between $1.10 and $1.20 per share this year.
During the first quarter, GE's industrial segment grew its operating earnings by 16% annually to $0.16 per share. In 2015, GE believes the industrial segment will earn between $1.10 and $1.20 per share. Assuming a midpoint of $1.15, it would imply that GE's industrial business is currently trading at about 23 times its 2015 operating earnings, a 12% premium to the S&P 500.
Putting it all together
As a whole, GE's earnings showed a company that continues to undergo a massive transformation from a company heavily weighed down by its massive financial services businesses into a leaner, meaner, industrial-focused company with underlying strength. Looking ahead, investors should continue to monitor how GE will keep driving growth from its industrial business.