Nearly everyone on Wall St. believes that GE (GE) will miss its earnings estimates and post a poor forecast for 2009. This sentiment has pushed its stock to a multi-year low and put pressure on the company’s board again to consider breaking the place into pieces.
The assumptions of analysts are that at least three of GE’s large business have hit very hard times.
NBCU, GE’s entertainment unit, may have modest results, but they are not likely to be terrible. Network TV and the firm’s studio probably did well enough so that the division will have positive operating income.
GE’s industrial unit may have been hit by the recession, but it is in enough businesses so that whatever trouble it has encountered will not be catastrophic.
GE’s infrastructure business is its largest. It is in the process of building out huge projects around the world. It has been counting on growth in emerging markets to ramp up earnings. It will make money, but perhaps less than Wall St. expected.
GE’s medical products operation may have been hit by the downturn in health care spending, but, since it sell some products which are essential to doctors and hospitals, it may outperform expectations.
That leave GE’s financial operations. This is where Wall St. believes that the conglomerate’s earnings will fall apart. But, is also may be where the company posts a pleasant surprise. As is true with most large pools of capital and credit, it is, at least to the outside world, a black box. The shock may be that the box is still working.
GE’s dividend and credit rating still may be safe.
Douglas A. McIntyre