BOSTON – General Electric Co. (GE) Friday said second-quarter earnings rose 14 percent as red-hot gas turbine sales carried the day, but reinsurance losses and a write-down on WorldCom bonds nicked the conglomerate's profits.
Analysts said a double-digit increase in order volume for core products at GE's plastics business was a positive sign for how the the broader economy might perform in the second half of the year.
Power systems -- which includes gas turbines and accounted for more than 40 percent of GE's quarterly profit -- is expected to cool off in the second half as GE looks to plastics and NBC television to pick up the slack.
The maker of everything from jet engines to light bulbs said it earned $4.4 billion, or 44 cents a diluted share, compared with $3.89 billion, or 39 cents a diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.
Analysts were looking for GE to earn 43 cents to 46 cents a share with a mean of 44 cents in the second quarter, according to research firm Thomson First Call.
"It looks like their results were pretty much as advertised," said Jeff Graff, an analyst at Victory Capital Management, which oversees nearly 28 million GE shares.
Since the company had provided a significant amount of guidance before its earnings, Wall Street will be keen to know how GE sees its businesses performing in the second half of the year.
GE touches just about every sector of the economy and it's a pretty good bellwether," Graff said.
"Our third quarter looks promising, and we remain comfortable with the targets we've communicated for the full year," GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said in a statement.
For the year, GE sees earnings per share of $1.65 to $1.67.
WORLDCOM MISERY SPREADS
As GE had previously stated, its second-quarter earnings reflected a $236 million quarterly loss at its Employers Reinsurance Corp. business and a $110 million after-tax loss for an impairment on WorldCom Inc. bonds. The results also included a favorable tax settlement that added $358 million to earnings.
The WorldCom and reinsurance losses hampered the performance at GE Capital Services, whose profits slipped 10 percent in the quarter.
GE's second-quarter revenue rose to $33.21 billion from $31.97 billion in the year-ago quarter. Revenue at its power systems business, which shipped 109 gas turbines, surged 27 percent, to $6.52 billion while profits there rose 66 percent.
GE's plastics business, a leading economic indicator, said orders for core products increased 25 percent over the year-earlier period.
The company has delayed plans to split off its property-and-casualty insurance operations, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday citing people familiar with the matter.
Earlier this year, it was considering splitting off Employers Reinsurance, which underwrites the risk of other insurers, with a partial initial public offering, the paper said. But after a poor reception for the public offering and losses at the unit, GE had decided to postpone the spinoff indefinitely.
GE shares, a Dow Jones industrial average component, are down almost 32 percent this year, underperforming the 19 percent decline on the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index.