It said it expected earnings per share of about $1.70-$1.80 next year, which would be an increase of 2-8 per cent on the $1.67 that analysts expect for 2014. Its industrial businesses are expected to increase earnings per share by at least 10 per cent next year, although revenues and profits are likely to fall at its new oil services division.
It is the first time the company has given such numerical guidance since 2008, having moved to vaguer indications of its outlook following the financial crisis.
Jeff Immelt, chief executive, told GE’s annual outlook presentation for analysts and investors in New York that the breadth and diversity of the group meant it was better positioned to compete in a tough market for oil services than its more focused rivals.
Volatile times like these were “why GE exists”, he said.
Revenues and operating profits in the oil services division will fall by up to 5 per cent next year, according to the company’s projections.
GE is using a planning assumption of an oil price of $60-$65 per barrel, roughly Tuesday’s level, but Mr Immelt said there was leeway in the guidance for earnings to come in within the projected range even if the crude price was lower.
The oil services division was built through a series of acquisitions when crude prices were generally higher.
However, 60 per cent of the unit’s sales come from areas not much exposed to the oil price, including refineries and liquefied natural gas plants.
Mr Immelt added that at a time when oil and gas capital spending was under pressure, GE was in a good position to help its customers cut their costs.
“Even before prices went down, oil and gas customers were really focused on improving the quality of the projects,” he said. “We like our competitive position.”
He also suggested that GE was not looking to buy any more oil service companies, even though valuations were likely to be depressed by weak oil prices, but was confident in the potential of oil services.
“We like this business,” he said. “We like it more at $120 [oil], don’t get me wrong, but we like this business for the long term.”
Lower profits from oil services next year are expected to be offset by stronger performances in other businesses including aero engines and other aircraft equipment, locomotives and gas turbines, according to the company’s projections.
It also plans to boost profits while revenue growth remains sluggish by cutting costs, including rationalisation following the $16.9bn acquisition of the power businesses of Alstom of France, which is expected to close in the middle of next year.
Brian Langenberg, an industrials analyst, said Mr Immelt’s presentation had made it clear that he was now focused on operational performance and realising the expected benefits of the Alstom deal.
Mr Langenberg said: “You’re not going to see this company doing anything else big and dramatic for the rest of Jeff Immelt’s tenure, whether that’s three to four years, or six to seven years.”
Mr Immelt, who took over at GE during the week of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, said the slump in oil prices was one of a number of market fluctuations he had been through.
“I could almost sing a song about all the crises I’ve seen,” he said.