Industrial giant General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) is likely to report another mediocre round of earnings, as its industrial business picks up only toward the end of 2013 and early 2014.
The conglomerate, which is based in Fairfield, Conn., will report results on Friday morning, before the market opens. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect profits of $3.6 billion, up 10 percent from a year ago. Revenue is expected to slip by 1 percent, to $35.9 billion, with earnings per share of 35 cents per share, down 2 percent from last year.
The massive industrial company has struggled to generate excitement among investors and analysts this year, as the end markets for its products return to health slowly and erratically.
GE’s products include aircraft engines, wind turbines and rail equipment, which it sells in dozens of countries, throughout several industrial sectors. Lately, the company has tried to reduce its financial reliance on its banking and finance arm, GE Capital, refocusing instead on its core industrial business.
But there’s unlikely to be any net growth in its industrial business this quarter, wrote Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) analysts in a research note last week.
Strong financials from GE’s oil and gas unit, alongside strength from its aviation business, will be offset by a weaker power and water business, where GE sells gas and wind turbines alongside water management machinery.
The company’s power and water unit has been responsible for unhappy results in its two most recent quarters, too.
Barclays analysts expect industrial margins to inch up by 0.5 percent, though power and water profit margins could slip down 0.6 percent. On industrial orders, the future is brighter, with GE selling 6 to 7 percent more industrial equipment than it did last year.
Profit margin improvement is likely skewed to the fourth quarter, away from what analysts earlier expected, said William Blair & Co. analyst Nick Heymann to IBTimes.
“We’re putting all the marbles on the last quarter,” he said. “That’s not unheard of: the same thing happened last year.”
The company’s transportation equipment sales in South Africa, China, Australia and India should outweigh lower sales in North America, said Heymann, who highlighted “dramatically lower” North American locomotive orders for the year so far, in a late September research note.
“My guess is that GE’s release shouldn’t be that exciting, with the push to the fourth quarter, but that’s well understood by now,” among company watchers, he said.
GE’s industrial rivals will also likely outpace it amid a broad recovery for U.S. industrial companies, with companies like United Technology Corporation (NYSE:UTX) and construction equipment firms leading the way. Record operating margins have been sidelined as investors worry about irregular revenue growth, but sales should also pick up shortly, Heymann said.
A $2.7 billion order for wind turbines for Algeria will only impact company accounts in the fourth quarter. Hints about a potential IPO or spinoff of GE’s consumer finance arm, as reported earlier this year, could be forthcoming in the earnings call, a keenly anticipated item among investors.