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UPDATE 3-GE forecasts 2019 profit below estimates, shares fall

Alwyn Scott and Rachit Vats

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March 14 (Reuters) - General Electric Co forecast profits for 2019 that were below analysts' estimates on Thursday, as the company spends to restructure its ailing power business.

Its shares dropped 2 percent in premarket trading, after earlier falling as much as 4 percent following the release of the earnings outlook.

GE forecast adjusted earnings of 50 cents to 60 cents a share for 2019, below analyst expectations of 70 cents, on average.

The U.S. industrial conglomerate said adjusted industrial free cash flow would be between negative $2 billion and zero. GE had warned investors last week about a net cash outflow from its industrial businesses.

The cash flow forecast takes into account more than $2 billion in charges for restructuring, corporate activity and "contingency" costs, the company said.

"GE's challenges in 2019 are complex but clear," Chief Executive Larry Culp said in a statement that reiterated his priorities of trimming GE's debt and improving the performance of its industrial businesses, especially the ailing power-plant division.

The company expects adjusted industrial free cash flow to be positive in 2020, with the pace of improvement accelerating in 2021, but provided no target figures.

It expects free cash flow for its power business to remain negative in 2020 before turning positive in 2021.

Investors are looking closely at GE's cash and earnings after the company lost nearly $23 billion last year.

As the first outsider to head the 127-year-old company, Culp has taken a series of steps to restore profit and boost its stock, which has tumbled to less than a third of its value since mid-2016.

Last year, Culp slashed GE's quarterly dividend to a penny a share. He struck a deal to sell the company's biopharma unit to Danaher Corp in February for $21.4 billion. The proceeds will be used trim debt, which totaled $121 billion in December. (Reporting by Rachit Vats, Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Alwyn Scott in New York; Editing by James Emmanuel and Bernadette Baum)