After Months of Selling Off Many of Its Businesses, What’s Left of General Electric?
Over the past several months, GE has been selling off and spinning off business units left and right.
Just yesterday the company announced the sale of its industrial engines unit to the private equity firm Advent International. A month before that, it was the spinoff of the transportation unit. And now today, as something of a climax to cap this crescendo, the company has announced it’s spinning off its health care unit and giving up its stake in the oil services company Baker Hughes.
Of course all of this came after a series of disastrous months for the business, including missing earnings, restating past earnings, and falling out of the Dow. But this sloughing off of business units and interests is nothing new. It began under former CEO Jeff Immelt, who got rid of GE’s capital, plastics, and appliance businesses, as well as its stake in NBC.
So as GE (GE) heads into a newly pared down set of operations, perhaps it’s easier to start with the short list: What’s left of GE?
GE Aviation continued to be one of the best-performing units in the company even as other units and the company as a whole struggled to meet targets. In 2017, GE Aviation CEO David Joyce was the only executive to receive a bonus in recognition of his outstanding work even as bonuses were taken away from all other executives. According to a company statement, GE technology powers two out of every three commercial airline departures around the world.
GE Power is an interesting unit to invest in. After the ill-advised, overpriced 2015 acquisition of French competitor Alstom, the business cratered and has been slow to recover. In December GE Power laid off 12,000 people and even CEO John Flannery has spoken out against the unit, saying “we have exacerbated the market situation with some really poor execution.” But the company sees the unit as an essential part of their overall energy strategy.
In perhaps the most forward-looking leg of the revamped GE, the company plans to focus on renewable energy to enhance its overall power offer. GE is well known for its wind turbines and has been involved in wind power projects everywhere from Ireland to Australia. But the company has also made some fatal errors in its renewables investment strategy. For instance, with the Alstom purchase, GE doubled down on fossil fuels when markets were favoring renewable energy sources. Perhaps making renewable energy a pillar of its new strategy is an attempt to atone for that sin.
Aviation, power, and renewable energy together accounted for more than half of GE’s $122 billion in revenue last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. GE CEO John Flannery said in a statement that these three units are “highly complementary businesses poised for future growth,” and that focusing on them would help the company “continue to improve our operations and balance sheet as we make GE simpler and stronger.”