GE’s Jeff Immelt sounds off on Europe and ‘more regulation’
When we asked Fortune 500 CEOs to describe their company’s greatest challenge, the No. 1 answer was, “The rapid pace of technological change.”
General Electric (GE) CEO Jeff Immelt calls technological change a challenge and an opportunity. Meanwhile, his biggest worry? Government regulation.
“We are going to live in a world for a long time with more government intervention, more regulation, “ Immelt said in a recent interview at Facebook’s (FB) Silicon Valley headquarters for Fortune‘s new video series, The Chat.
“This is just part of a big, I think, social trend,” Immelt said about regulation. “And it’s not just the U.S. It’s China, it’s Europe, it’s all over the world.”
Granted, the GE boss may be hypersensitive these days: He’s been struggling for over a year to get the European Commission to approve his conglomerate’s largest acquisition ever: a $14 billion deal to buy France-based Alstom’s (ALO) power equipment business. (On Friday, GE said it is working on remedies in response to a “charge sheet” of objections that it received from European regulators.)
When I asked Immelt what Europe should do to better compete globally, you could practically see him boiling over with impatience.
“Look at people your age,” the GE boss said to an audience of Facebook employees—while clearly intending his message for European officials. “Young European talent wants to compete. They don’t want to leave their homes. They’re proud to be Europeans. They want a chance to build a future, an economic future. They think they’re as good as anybody in the world, and they are. So the European Commission, the European Union needs to do things to help these people live their dreams.”
Immelt went on to critique Europe’s approach to wooing businesses. “They don’t have a single digital market,” he said, referring to Europe’s fractured system. “They don’t have a single power market. There is no community like Silicon Valley that’s matched in Europe. And so, young people like you who are living your dreams here, they don’t have that opportunity in Europe.”
I’m in London at the 2015 Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit. Click here to read our coverage and watch video clips of Europe’s top women leaders—including Banco Santander (SAN) chair Ana Botin and easyJet (EZJ) CEO Carolyn McCall—talking about competition, keys to success, lessons in leadership, and more.