By Alwyn Scott
NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Electric (NYSE:GE) Co reported quarterly sales and adjusted earnings results that beat analysts estimates on Friday, but its shares fell on concerns about some of its industrial businesses and its cash outflow.
The maker of jet engines, power plants and other industrial equipment also reported a negative $1.6 billion in cash flow from industrial operating activities compared with a negative $600 million it expected for the quarter due to a $1.3 billion increase in working capital and the timing of bills to customers.
Investors have been watching cash flow as an indicator of GE's operating performance, and GE said it still expects to hit its cash target of $12 billion to $14 billion for the full year.
Shares were down 2.3 percent at $29.57 in afternoon trading, making it the second-biggest decliner on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
"There was immediate disappointment that cash came in low," said Deane Dray, analyst at RBC Capital markets. Analysts asked numerous questions about it on the conference call and "it gave investors a reason not to feel good about the quarter."
The company also raised concern by giving itself wiggle room to deliver fewer LEAP aircraft engines this year, a key risk for the company. It said the range for the year was 450 to 500 engines, instead of nearly 500 it stated earlier.
"It is notable that GE is taking a more cautious slant by backing away from a firm target of "500," Vertical Research Partners analyst Rob Stallard said.
But GE Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bornstein said in an interview there was no change in the LEAP forecast.
"We're not changing our view on our ability to deliver the LEAP engine this year for Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Airbus," Bornstein said.
GE shipped 81 engines in the first quarter and expects to ship 100 in the second quarter, he said, adding: "There's no delays to customers whatsoever."
GE beat analysts estimates for adjusted earnings and revenue, even though revenue fell 1 percent to $27.66 billion, due to lower sales in its oil-and-gas and lighting businesses. Analysts expected $26.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Adjusted earnings of 21 cents a share were unchanged from a year ago and beat analyst estimates of 17 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
GE said industrial organic revenue, which is from continuing businesses, grew 7 percent in the quarter, a strong showing according to analysts. Industrial operating profit margins rose by 1.3 percent points, also more than analysts expected, and ahead of the 1 percentage point forecast for the year.
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt noted a 10 percent rise in quarterly orders and said the world economy was "an attractive environment for GE."
"We see global growth accelerating, while the U.S. continues to improve," Immelt said on the conference call, adding that growth in China, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa this year were all "stronger than last year."
Separately, European engineering groups ABB Ltd and Schneider Electric (PA:SCHN) SE are competing for GE's solutions division, which could fetch as much as $3 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
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