Investors in General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) no doubt already know about CEO Jeffrey Immelt's aim to return the company back to its industrial roots. So far the plan is working well in terms of divesting assets from GE Capital. Meanwhile, the company is developing its long-term growth opportunities with initiatives such as the industrial Internet and services. But the core driver of its earnings remains its industrial hardware solutions. The company has three new major product lines that are representative of its success in transitioning back to its industrial roots.
Let's take a closer look at the early indicators of their success.
General Electric continues to claim a 79% market share with the LEAP engine from CFM International (a joint venture between General Electric and Snecma), although that figure consists of a 100% share on Boeing's 737 MAX and a 55% share on the Airbus A320neo.
In a nutshell, the two planes are narrow-body models that are the workhorses of the commercial aviation industry. The aircraft maker's 737 MAX is intended to replace its 737 Next Generation family, and it already has 2,869 firm orders for the plane, with first delivery set for 2017. The company claims to be on schedule with the 737 MAX -- good news for General Electric.
Meanwhile, the A320neo is responsible for nearly 69% of Airbus' 708 net orders in 2015 alone. The company is set to start delivering the A320neo in 2016 and has made plans for 4,000 aircraft to be delivered in the next 15 years.
A quick look at Boeing's orders versus International Air Transport Association estimates for airline profitability reveals a strong correlation, and given the current health of the commercial aviation industry, it's reasonable to expect good growth for the near term. As the following chart shows, airline profitability has increased notably in recent years.
H-Class industrial gas turbine
According to its latest earnings presentation, GE has 15 H-turbines in backlog and 30 technical selections. It's a strong start for the new turbine, especially after the disappointing sales of its previous H-class turbine. (In case you're wondering, the letter H refers to an industry classification based on various operational metrics -- the H-class is the newest class.)
Thinking longer term, it's possible that General Electric could be a net beneficiary of sustained low energy prices. For example, low gas prices could lead to the replacement of coal-fired power plants with gas turbines. In addition, the regulatory environment isn't favorable for coal, so retiring coal-fired plants could be replaced by gas turbines. Throw in the increasing production of gas in the U.S., and you have a favorable environment for General Electric to expand its gas turbine sales.
Tier 4 locomotives
General Electric claims to have received 1,355 orders for its Tier 4 emissions standards-compliant locomotives in 2014 alone. As such, the company has stolen a significant march on its main competitor, namely Caterpillar's Electro-Motive Diesel, or EMD, company. EMD's Tier 4-compliant locomotive is estimated to become available in 2017 -- a full two years after General Electric starts delivering its locomotives. Looking further ahead, it's possible that LNG-fueled locomotives could replace diesel-powered locomotives, but here, too, General Electric (alongside EMD) has engines in testing.
The Foolish takeaway
All told, the latest news on these three technologies is favorable, and the company is demonstrating that its transition to being an industrial-focused company is progressing well. The airline industry will always be tied to the economy at large, but the evidence is that airlines are becoming more profitable, and the LEAP engine is well positioned on the A320neo and 737 MAX.
Meanwhile, low gas prices could provide a positive catalyst to investment in the company's H-class turbines, while GE Transportation has demonstrated that it's at the cutting edge of locomotive development.
Ultimately, the company remains an industrial cyclical -- don't buy the stock if you are convinced the global economy is turning down -- but if current trends are maintained, then General Electric looks set to do well.