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GE shares down as analysts cut profit views

BOSTON (Reuters) - General Electric Co GE.N shares fell 4 percent on Friday as analysts lowered their 2009 profit forecasts for the U.S. conglomerate, a day after a marathon six-hour briefing on GE's financing unit.

The General Electric Co. logo is visible on a closed General Electric Co. facility in Lynn, Massachusetts March 6, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

“Deteriorating macroeconomic conditions globally, including rising unemployment, bankruptcies and illiquid credit markets, could easily derail GE’s current plans, provisions and reserves,” wrote Steven Winoker, analyst with BernsteinResearch.

BernsteinResearch now expects the financing unit, GE Capital, to record a loss of $1 billion this year, more than offset by a profit of $9.6 billion from GE’s industrial and media businesses. He cut his 2009 earnings target for GE to 81 cents a share from $1.18.

BernsteinResearch cut its target price on GE shares to $12 from $14.

GE officials said on Thursday that under the Federal Reserve’s base-case scenario for the U.S. economy this year, GE Capital’s profit could be closer to a range of $2 billion to $2.5 billion than the $5 billion the company forecast in December.

If the “adverse case” the Fed has sketched out comes to pass, GE Capital could merely break even, the executives said.

“We believe that an outcome closer to the low end (would) be more prudent,” wrote Nigel Coe of Deutsche Bank. He is now forecasting a GE Capital profit of $800,000 in 2009 and $300,000 in 2010.

Deutsche Bank cut its 2009 profit forecast for GE to 97 cents per share from $1.20, and lowered its target price on the stock to $11 from $12.

GE Capital’s portfolio includes U.S. credit cards, commercial loans to mid-sized businesses, and aircraft leasing, as well as sizable real estate investments.

While GE executives repeatedly said on Thursday that they saw no need to raise additional equity, analysts said a sharp spike in loan delinquencies at the finance arm could force the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company to rethink that.

“The main question that remains is, can the company earn its way through elevated losses on the portfolio without having to raise equity capital,” wrote Nicole Parent, an analyst with Credit Suisse. “Uncertainty around magnitude and timing of the losses at (GE Capital) make that difficult to assess.”

Credit Suisse, which rates GE “neutral,” cut its target price on the stock to $11 from $13 and lowered its 2009 earnings forecast to $1.05 per share from $1.20.

GE shares were down 42 cents to $9.71 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by John Wallace

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