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GE pulls forecast on coronavirus, but backs first-quarter cash flow

The General Electric Co. logo is seen on the company's corporate headquarters building in Boston

(Reuters) - General Electric Co <GE.N> pulled its full-year forecast on Thursday due to the uncertainties created by the coronavirus outbreak, but backed its first-quarter industrial free cash flow expectation of near negative $2 billion.

Shares of the company, which reaffirmed its annual forecast just little over a month ago, rose as much as 3.2% to $7.54 in morning trading.

"With net proceeds of about $20 billion from the BioPharma transaction now in hand, we have more flexibility to de-risk and further strengthen our balance sheet," Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said in a statement.

GE last month sold its biopharma business to Danaher Corp <DHR.N> to focus on its core aviation and power businesses.

The announcement comes days after customers Boeing Co <BA.N> and Airbus SE <AIR.PA> halt or lower production of jets as airlines cancel flights and layoff staff amid a virtual halt in travel caused by the pandemic.

The Boston-based maker of jet engines, power plants and other industrial equipment said its first-quarter adjusted earnings will now be "materially below" its prior expectations of about 10 cents per share.

GE's healthcare unit is working with Ford Motor Co <F.N> to produce 50,000 ventilators needed to treat severely sick coronavirus patients.

The company said it would share more details during its first-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, April 29.

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Sriraj Kalluvila)