General Electric has today unexpectedly reported a quarterly profit and a positive cash flow on the back of cost cuts and improvements in its power and renewable energy businesses. 

The Boston-based industrial conglomerate reported a free cash flow of $514m from industrial operations in the third quarter.

This compared with an outflow of $2.1 billion in the previous quarter and Refinitiv's average analyst estimate of an outflow of $876m. 

GE said it expects industrial free cash flow to be at least $2.5 billion in the fourth quarter and positive in 2021. 

Adjusted profit for the quarter came in at six cents per share compared with Refinitiv's average analyst estimate of a loss of four cents per share. 

The company's shares, which have fallen about 40% since the beginning of 2020, were up about 6% in pre-market trade. 

"We are managing through a still-difficult environment with better operational execution across our businesses," GE's chief executive Lawrence Culp said. 

Culp is trying to turn around the company by improving free cash flow and cutting debt.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has hit those efforts by hammering GE's aviation unit, usually the company's most profitable and most cash-generative business segment. 

In response to the pandemic-induced turmoil, GE is cutting $2 billion in costs and aiming to generate $3 billion in cash savings. The company said it has so far realised 75% of its target.

Revenue at both power and renewable energy businesses recovered from the last quarter even as orders saw a double-digit dip. 

But revenue at GE's aviation unit fell an annual 39% in the latest quarter.