GE may need to stop paying its dividend after 119 years

GE may need to stop paying its dividend after 119 years

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – General Electric has paid a dividend for 119 consecutive years, together with through the Great Depression and the 2008 monetary meltdown. Goldman Sachs thinks that streak wants to come to an finish.

GE is sitting on a mountain of debt accrued by a collection of unhealthy offers, shrinking income and an enormous pension shortfall. That debt is now making it tough for the maker of sunshine bulbs and jet engines to afford its dividend payout to shareholders.

“We think the most prudent action would be for GE to consider suspending its common dividend for the next 18 months,” Goldman Sachs analyst Joe Ritchie wrote in a report printed on Thursday night time.

“GE is in a challenging situation,” Ritchie wrote, including that placing the dividend on maintain would save the corporate $6 billion that can be utilized to pay down debt.

Suspending the dividend can be the newest blow for GE, which is getting kicked out of the unique Dow Jones Industrial Average subsequent week. GE was an unique member of the Dow in 1896 and has been in it repeatedly since November 1907.

GE has already taken drastic motion on the dividend, which thousands and thousands of shareholders depend on. Last fall, the conglomerate minimize the dividend in half, marking simply the second time because the Great Depression that it touched the coveted payout. GE has paid a dividend every year since 1899, in accordance to Howard Silverblatt of S&P Dow Jones Indices.

GE can be racing to elevate money by promoting off companies, together with ones central to the corporate’s id. It’s attempting to discover a purchaser for the sunshine bulb division that Thomas Edison based. Last month, GE additionally reached a deal to unload the century-old railroad enterprise.

Yet GE’s monetary issues are big. Total debt since 2013 has practically tripled to $77 billion, in accordance to Moody’s. That contains GE’s massive pension shortfall, which is the most important of the S&P 500 firms.

Goldman Sachs estimates that GE wants to slash its debt by $35 billion to $40 billion to get borrowing ranges again to wholesome ranges. The agency mentioned that may be “difficult to achieve” with out greater asset gross sales or a big rise in rates of interest, which might assist the pension hole.

If GE does not get its borrowing ranges down, credit score rankings companies may punish GE. A downgrade would hamper GE’s means to borrow in short-term credit score markets, Ritchie mentioned.

“GE needs to shore up its balance sheet to mitigate the risk of a credit ratings downgrade,” he wrote.

Others on Wall Street, most notably JPMorgan Chase analyst C. Stephen Tusa Jr., have beforehand warned that GE cannot afford its dividend.

GE declined to remark. CEO John Flannery mentioned at a convention final month that GE sees a “path forward to increasing our cash levels, decreasing our leverage.”

GE’s shares plunged throughout Flannery’s speech as a result of he would not commit to leaving the dividend alone in 2019. They’re buying and selling on the lowest stage in practically 9 years.

That suggests GE’s inventory may take one other sizable hit if it put the dividend on maintain — at the very least within the quick run. Similar strikes by General Motors and JCPenney precipitated their shares to wrestle over the subsequent yr to two years, Goldman Sachs famous.

The one exception: BP. Ritchie famous that the oil large’s inventory plunged however then shortly recovered after it had to droop the dividend to pay large fines associated to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Of course, it is by no means comforting when the silver lining is the worst environmental catastrophe in American historical past.

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