CEO Flannery says health-care spinoff will 'likely lead to a reduction in the aggregate GE dividend'

Key Points
  • General Electric CEO said on an investor call the company will likely lower its "aggregate" dividend once the health-care spinoff is finished.
  • GE's current dividend yield is to 3.8 percent, higher than its industrial rivals Honeywell, United Technologies and Eaton.
John Flannery
Scott Eisen | CNBC

General Electric will likely lower its "aggregate" dividend once the health-care spinoff is finished.

"Given the typically lower payout ratios in the health-care industry this will likely lead to a reduction in the aggregate GE dividend at that time," CEO John Flannery said on the company's investor call.

On Tuesday the company announced its plan to spin off its health-care unit and separate its stake in oil services company Baker Hughes over the next two to three years. GE will focus its operations on the aviation, power and renewable energy businesses.

In the announcement, the company addressed its payout, a touchy subject for the company since any change to its policy could send long-time retail holders of the blue chip headed for the exits:

"GE expects to maintain its current quarterly dividend, subject to Board approval, until GE Healthcare is established as an independent entity. At that time, the new GE Healthcare Board of Directors will determine GE Healthcare’s dividend policy, which GE expects to reflect healthcare industry practices. Also at that time, the GE Board expects to adjust the GE dividend with a target dividend policy in line with industrial peers."

GE said the spinoff is expected to be completed within 12 to 18 months.

GE's current dividend yield is 3.8 percent, higher than industrial competitors Honeywell, United Technologies and Eaton at 2.07 percent, 2.25 percent and 3.48 percent, respectively.

GE cut its dividend in half last November, and the stock is down 38 percent since then. That drop and its lower payout is one of the reasons why it was booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, effective Tuesday.

The company also plans to reduce its net debt by approximately $25 billion by 2020 and generate $500 million or more in corporate cost savings by year-end 2020.