GE lifts 2021 earnings forecast, flags 'challenging' operating environment

The General Electric logo is pictured on working helmets during a visit at the General Electric offshore wind turbine plant in Montoir-de-Bretagne
The General Electric logo is pictured on working helmets during a visit at the General Electric offshore wind turbine plant in Montoir-de-Bretagne, near Saint-Nazaire, western France, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

CHICAGO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) raised its full-year earnings forecast on Tuesday after a recovery in its jet-engine business helped it report higher-than-expected quarterly profit.

The industrial conglomerate, however, said it faced a "challenging" operating environment because of global supply chain disruptions and uncertainty over whether production tax credits for onshore wind investments will be extended over the long term in U.S. President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill.

GE, like other manufacturers, is grappling with a labor crunch and shortages of raw materials such as semiconductor chips and resins. It expects the supply constraints to persist through the rest of the year and in 2022, hurting profit in its healthcare business.

"I'm not sure we're yet at a place where we would say that things are stable," Chief Executive Larry Culp told investors on an earnings call. "It really is akin to playing a whack-a-mole."

The company expects inflationary pressure to intensify next year, adversely impacting its onshore wind business due to the rising cost of transportation and commodities like steel.

To mitigate that impact, it is trying to improve productivity, source alternative parts and redesign product configurations.

The uncertainty over production tax credits, meanwhile, is weighing on its onshore wind business. If the incentives are extended, customers may defer investments, and as a result, GE expects its renewable energy unit to burn cash this year.

The Boston-based company expects 2021 adjusted profit in the range of $1.80 to $2.10 per share, compared with $1.20 to $2.00 estimated previously.

GE said it expects revenue growth, margin expansion, and higher free cash flow next year. However, it narrowed free cash flow estimates for 2021 to $3.75 billion-$4.75 billion from $3.5 billion-$5.0 billion forecast earlier.

Shares were up 0.7% at $106.01 in morning trading.

Adjusted profit for the third quarter was 57 cents a share. Analysts on average expected 43 cents per share, according to Refinitiv data.

It generated $1.7 billion in free cash flow from industrial operations during the quarter, compared with $514 million a year ago.

Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Bernadette Baum

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