General Electric Earnings Nothing to Write Home About

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General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) reported first-quarter 2013 results before markets opened this morning. The conglomerate posted adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $0.39 on revenues of $35.01 billion. In the same period a year ago, GE reported EPS of $0.34 on revenues of $35.08 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.35 on revenues of $34.63 billion.

GAAP earnings totaled $0.35 per share, which does not include a $0.04 per share benefit from the sale of NBCUniversal to Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

The company did not provide guidance in its press release, but the consensus estimate for the second quarter calls for EPS of $0.40 on revenues of $36.83 billion. For the full year, EPS is pegged at $1.67 and revenues at $149.26 billion.

The company’s CEO said:

GE’s markets were mixed. The U.S. and growth markets were in line with expectations. We planned for a continued challenging environment in Europe, but conditions weakened further with Industrial segment revenues in the region down 17%. Overall, Power & Water markets were worse than we expected. While we anticipated significantly fewer wind and gas turbine shipments, we saw additional pressure in European Power & Water services. This weakness also had a negative impact on margins. We always anticipated that the first half of 2013 would be our toughest comparison; we expect Power & Water to improve during the year and be positive in the second half.

The drop in GE’s power and water segment was stunning: revenues down 26% and profits down 39%. For the entire industrial segment of the company, first-quarter profits fell 4% year-over-year. Had it not been for a reduction of 55% in the company’s corporate expenses, profits could well have been flat or worse for the quarter.

The headline numbers look good for GE, but they lie on top of a pretty weak foundation. Investors are likely to be unhappy with these results today.

Shares are down 3.1% in premarket trading this morning, at $21.97 in a 52-week range of $18.02 to $23.90. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $25.70 before today’s results were announced.