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GE CEO Stands by Cash Forecast Despite Pressure From 737 Max

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 2/19/2020 Richard Clough
a group of people standing around a plane: An employee works on a Boeing Co. 737 Max 9 plane at the company's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington. © Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg An employee works on a Boeing Co. 737 Max 9 plane at the company's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington.

(Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co. stood by its goal of boosting cash flow this year despite a near-term drag from the production halt of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max.

While the company’s cash burn could worsen to as much as $2 billion in the first quarter because of “pressure” from the Max crisis, GE expects a rebound later in the year, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said Wednesday at a Barclays conference. GE’s manufacturing businesses will generate as much as $4 billion in free cash this year, he reiterated.

“It’s a significant step up, but still a good bit away from where we should be longer term,” he said.

Culp’s sanguine outlook for 2020 offered a measure of relief to investors concerned over the Max’s impact on GE, which makes engines for Boeing’s best-selling jet. The plane has been grounded for almost a year following a pair of deadly crashes.

GE rose 1.1% to $12.89 at 11:55 a.m. in New York. The stock climbed 14% this year though Tuesday, compared with a 3.1% advance for a Standard & Poor’s index of U.S. industrial companies. GE jumped 53% last year, a partial recovery after a share collapse the previous two years.

GE Aviation’s cash flow this year should be “flat to up” despite the Max situation, Culp said. The health-care and power units may also see improvement, though cash flow in the renewable-energy division will be challenged, he said.

GE expects to set aside about $100 million in the first quarter related to its old long-term care insurance business, a smaller amount than expected, Culp said. The company recently completed its statutory cash flow testing for the portfolio, he said.

The figure “is a surprisingly positive outcome,” Thomas Gallagher, an analyst with Evercore ISI, said in a note. The firm had previously anticipated GE would need to put $500 million to $1 billion into reserves.

Read more: GE Tries to Break Rolls-Royce Grip on Engines for Airbus Jet

Separately, Culp cautioned that the virus outbreak in China is a “wild card” for the near-term performance of the Boston-based company, which also makes power equipment and medical scanners.

(Updates with CEO comment in third paragraph)

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