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GE sees annual profit growth despite ongoing renewables woes

The General Electric logo is displayed on a sign outside their headquarters on Nov. 10, 2021, in Boston.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

General Electric Co. expects profit to climb this year as it capitalizes on a strong demand for air travel, even as lingering issues in its renewable energy business weigh on the company’s overall performance.

Adjusted earnings will be as much as $2 a share in 2023, the company said Tuesday in a statement that also detailed fourth-quarter results. That’s up from 77 cents last year, but still short of the $2.37 average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Free cash flow will be in the range of $3.4 billion to $4.2 billion, while sales will also rise.

The growth projections come despite the risk of an economic slowdown. In an interview, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp pointed to an elevated order backlog, the travel rebound and the fact that services account for more than half of the company’s revenue as factors that will help it withstand economic turmoil.

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“That I think sets us up better than most,” he said. “We’re ready for 2023. A lot of people will talk about recession, we’ll talk about growth.”

The outlook offers a glimpse of GE’s operations in what will be its first year without its health-care division, which was spun off this month in the first step of Culp’s plan to break up the company. The 130-year-old industrial icon’s remaining businesses are focused on products such as jet engines, wind turbines and power equipment before a planned separation next year of the energy units.

See also: Wind Turbines Taller Than the Statue of Liberty Are Falling Over

The shares were volatile in premarket trading, erasing an early decline to climb 2.2 percent as of 8:10 a.m. in New York. GE gained 22 percent this year through Monday’s close.

The energy businesses to be spun off next year will lose money in 2023 as GE continues to “drive operational improvements” at the renewables unit, Culp said in the statement. That will weigh on results even as GE Aerospace reports as much as $5.7 billion in operating profit. The company said it expects military-related sales to “yield significant profit growth” this year.

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GE’s report was solid overall, but strength in aviation and gas-power operations are being offset by “steeper projected losses at Renewables,” Nigel Coe, an analyst with Wolfe Research, said in a note.

Fourth-quarter free cash flow — a key measure for investors — was $4.29 billion, topping the $4 billion average of analyst estimates. Adjusted earnings were $1.24 per share in the period, compared to $1.16 expected by Wall Street.

GE’s aviation business continued to boost the overall company. Segment profits jumped 18 percent to $1.4 billion last quarter.

Ongoing issues at GE’s wind turbine unit dragged down the Renewable Energy division to a $454 million operating loss. The company previously announced a plan to cut jobs and restructure the business in a bid to reach profitability in 2024.

The gas power, renewable energy and digital units will become an independent company called GE Vernova early next year, leaving the legacy aviation unit as GE’s primary remaining business.

GE also completed a $6.4 billion debt tender in the fourth quarter, bringing the total amount of debt paid off since 2018 to about $100 billion.