April 17, 2015 / 6:44 PM / in 2 years

Strong dollar hit to GE, Honeywell may bode poorly for other industrials

The logo of U.S. conglomerate General Electric is pictured at the company's site in Belfort, April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

(Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) and Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) said on Friday they will take steps to cushion the impact of a stronger dollar, which hurt first-quarter results at both companies.

Indeed, the impact of currency shifts on U.S. companies will be highlighted further next week with quarterly reports from United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), which already slashed its 2015 financial forecast in January over currency worries, as well as from 3M Co (MMM.N) and Illinois Tool Works Inc (ITW.N).

GE said foreign currency effects shaved $950 million, or 4 percentage points, off its sales in the first quarter.

Honeywell also reported a 4-percentage-point quarterly drag from a stronger dollar, and projected that exchange fluctuations would weigh down sales by $1.7 billion this year.

The rise in the dollar .DXY - which has surged 22 percent against a basket of major currencies since June 30 - hurts U.S. companies with major foreign sales, because they lose value when translated from weaker currencies into the greenback.

Both companies said they have been taking action to mitigate the currency impact. GE is considering different locations where it can manufacture products or components for businesses, such as its power and healthcare units, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bornstein.

“We certainly have thought more deeply and more thoughtfully about our supply chain footprint and our manufacturing footprint,” Bornstein said in an interview. “That’s a little bit of a natural hedge that a global company has.”

GE shares were down about 1 percent at $27.03 in afternoon trading after posting results. The U.S. conglomerate stood by its full-year industrial profit view despite concerns about its oil and gas business.

Honeywell Chief Financial Officer Tom Szlosek said in an interview that the company has been hedging transactions that its individual foreign subsidiaries make when they import in dollars. Now, he said, it is also hedging when the company’s foreign sales are translated back into the dollar.

Honeywell’s earnings, which the company projected to be in a range of $6 to $6.15 a share this year, would have been 12 or 13 cents a share lower without those hedges, Szlosek said.

“Our hedging strategy has protected us significantly from the impact of FX on sales,” Szlosek said.

Honeywell shares were off 2 percent at $101.79 after the company lowered its full-year revenue forecast.

“We’re going to see a lot of dollar impact across the board,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer with Solaris Asset Management.

Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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