Top GE analyst Tusa was not impressed by earnings: 'Scratching our heads at the stock reaction'

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General Electric shares soared to their best day in a decade following the Thursday’s fourth-quarter earnings report but J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen Tusa remained unconvinced by GE’s results.

“We come away from the 4Q scratching our heads at the stock reaction,” Tusa said in a note to investors. “We believe one has to make highly optimistic assumptions to get back to a run rate that supports anything near $10.”

CEO Larry Culp did not provide a forecast to shareholders for GE’s 2019 earnings, instead saying industrial revenue would be up “low-to-mid single digits” next year. While Wall Street’s consensus is that GE will report 81 cents a share of earnings in 2019, Tusa cut his estimate to 28 cents a share.

“There was no official EPS/profit guidance, and therefore no official reset,” Tusa said.

GE shares slipped 1.5 percent in premarket trading. The stock soared nearly 12 percent following GE’s report, closing above $10 a share for the first time since November.

Several Wall Street analysts said to GE’s stock reaction came from the company’s industrial free cash flow of $4.5 billion. Tusa denied that metric, saying that this quarter’s industrial free cash flow was “temporarily bolstered.” Comments made by Culp and CFO Jamie Miller on the call “combined with our calculations suggests a significant decline in 2019,” Tusa said. J.P. Morgan estimates industrial free cash flow was about $2.5 billion.

Tusa maintained J.P. Morgan’s neutral rating and $6 price target on GE.

“We will stick to the numbers, on which the read through reaffirms our well below-consensus model, and there is no change to the math that supports our $6 PT,” Tusa said.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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