Investors were reminded Wednesday of the challenges that lay ahead for General Electric, as the company reported steep revenue declines and said it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its accounting practices.
GE's fourth quarter fell short of Wall Street's expectations, but it offered up a stronger-than-expected outlook for 2018. That news initially lifted GE shares in premarket trading, but during its investor call, the company revealed its recent review of its GE Capital insurance portfolio was under scrutiny and it would be restating two years of financial results. The stock was down slightly early in Wednesday's regular trading session.
In the latest period, the conglomerate swung to a loss from continuing operations of $10.01 billion, or $1.15 per share, from earnings of $3.48 billion, or 39 cents per share.
Stripping out charges, GE earned 27 cents a share, or about 2 cents per share less than what analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting.
Revenue fell 5 percent to $31.40 billion from $33.09 billion a year ago. Revenue was far less than analysts expected, with Thomson Reuters reporting an average revenue estimate of $34.06 billion.
A portion of the charges taken in the fourth quarter are at the center of the SEC's investigation. GE's review led it to take a $6.2 billion after-tax charge. The company also plans to contribute $15 billion to the unit over the next seven years to shore up its portfolio.
The SEC wants to know more about the process that lead to the insurance reserve increase and the change. It also has questions about its revenue recognition and controls for its long-term service agreements, GE Chief Financial Officer Jamie Miller told investors.
The company said it is cooperating with the investigation.
The earnings were the second under CEO John Flannery, who has embarked on an extensive review of the company's business.
Flannery cheered the improvements the company made in the latest period.
"Our results this quarter demonstrate some of the early progress we are seeing from our key initiatives," Flannery said in the company's press release. "The team is focused
on operational execution, capital allocation and deep cost reduction to position us for continued improvement in 2018."
The company says its cash performance in the latest period was better than expected.
GE said its industrial businesses generated adjusted cash flow of $7.76 billion. That figure excludes taxes on deals, the costs of GE's pension plan and its oil and gas business. It includes a dividend from its ownership of Baker Hughes.