From turbines and TVs, to aircraft engines and power plants, General Electric (GE) is plugged in to businesses that shape the modern world. The company produces -- take a deep breath -- aircraft engines, locomotives and other transportation equipment, lighting, electric control equipment, generators and turbines, and medical imaging equipment. GE also owns mega-financial company GE Capital, which offers commercial finance, commercial aircraft leasing, real estate, and energy financial services. GE's other segments include Aviation, Home & Business Solutions, and Transportation. GE announced it would be selling GE Capital and leasing businesses in 2015. It sold its appliances business to Electrolux in 2014.
Although financial services is GE's biggest segment, the company's raison d'etre has traditionally been its industrial products. The company has shuffled its organizational structure several times, but it's long-term goal is to specialize in industrial manufacturing. Currently, the company divides its operations across eight segments: GE Capital, Healthcare, Aviation, Power & Water, Oil & Gas, Home & Business Solutions, Energy Management, and Transportation.
The sale of GE's iconic household appliances business to Electrolux for $3.3 billion in 2014 certainly marked a significant change for the company, but those lines actually accounted for less than 10% of GE's overall revenues. Electrolux will continue to use the GE Appliances brand through a long-term agreement between the two companies.
In 2013, GE sold its 49% stake in NBCUniversal for nearly $17 billion to Comcast as part of its strategy to focus on its industrial operations. There was already a structure in place for Comcast to eventually take full ownership of NBCUniversal, but stronger than expected growth from the joint venture accelerated those plans.
The company announced in mid-2015 that it would be selling its GE Capital business, which includes its banking, real estate, and leasing operations, to focus more on its core strengths.
GE has approximately 240 manufacturing plants in 38 states in the US and Puerto Rico; it also operates more than 300 plants in 40 other countries. Its vast operations are located in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. The company serves customers in more than 100 countries and generates more the half of its revenue from international markets.
GE's revenue rebounded from last year's dip, growing by 2% to $148.59 billion in 2014. This was mostly thanks to strong growth from GE's power & water, oil & gas, and aviation businesses, along with their positive acquisition effects of Lufkin Industries, Avio, and certain Thermo Fisher Scientific businesses. Some of this top line growth was hindered by a 3% drop in GE's financial segment revenue as the company sold off some of its financial businesses and earned less from investment gains.
Net income also jumped to a six-year high, growing by 17% to $15.23 billion in 2014, primarily thanks to higher revenues and fewer losses from discontinued operations related to its old WMC mortgage business. For reference, GE's pre-recession profit levels from 2005 to 2008 hovered between $16.35 billion and $22.2 billion.
Despite higher earnings, cash levels fell for the fifth year in a row. Operations provided $27.71 billion, or roughly 3% less cash than in 2013, as the company's accounts receivables grew and as it collected less from its GE progress collections.
CEO Jeff Immelt is obviously not shy about making sweeping changes, whether by divesting underperforming segments or investing in probable growth industries. He has emerged from the considerable shadow of his predecessor, Jack Welch, by diverging somewhat from Welch's slavish obsession with the bottom line and encouraging managers to innovate and take more risks. As a result, GE has been growing in such areas as biotech, renewable energy, nanotechnology, and digital technology, while divesting in its financial businesses. Immelt has taken a page from his former boss' playbook by pursuing growth outside the US, particularly in emerging markets like India, China, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
As part of its strategy to simplify operations, the company announced in mid-2015 that it would be selling its GE Capital business, which includes its banking, real estate, and leasing operations. The company began by selling its $26.5 billion of real estate assets (which included factories, commercial loans, and apartment complexes) to Wells Fargo bank and private equity firm Blackstone. In 2014, GE sold off GE Money Bank AB business in Sweden, Denmark and Norway to Santander for $2.3 billion. That year the company also announced plans to exit its North American Retail Finance operations. In 2013, the company exited its CLL Trailer Services business in Europe and spun off 69% of Swiss consumer finance bank Cembra through an initial public offering.
GE hopes to double its oil and gas revenues by 2015 and plans to continue making investments to grow the business. In line with that strategy, GE in 2013 acquired Texas-based Lufkin Industries, which specializes in providing artificial lift technologies for the oil and gas industry as well as making industrial gears. The $3.3 billion deal broadened the GE Oil & Gas unit and supports the company's plans to tighten its focus on industrial customers by providing services and equipment. In 2014, GE launched Predictivity, a portfolio of web-based products to help oil and gas customers in the Asia/Pacific region improve operational and fiscal productivity.
To further boost its industrial operations, the partnered with XD Electric Group in 2013 to combine GE's grid automation capabilities with XD's high-voltage power equipment. GE Energy Financial Services has also recently invested in Japan's largest solar power project, to be built in Okayama Prefecture; it holds a 60% stake in the project.
Another growth area for GE is mining. In 2012 the company acquired underground mining equipment manufacturers, Industrea Limited and Fairchild International. Both companies are positioned for growth in China, Australia, and the US. It also created a new business unit that year: Australia-based GE Mining.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In early 2015, GE announced its intentions to buy the power assets of France's Alstom for $16.9 billion. This deal, the biggest acquisition in GE's history to date, will expand GE's global base of power-generating turbines. It will also provide the company with access to expected growth in emerging markets. In January 2015, GE acquired Milestone Aviation Group for $1.8 billion.
In 2014, to further expand its presence in the oil and gas industry, GE acquired the reciprocating compression division of Cameron. That year it also strengthened its healthcare business by purchasing select life-science businesses from Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. for $1.1 billion, and by acquiring management software and analytics provider API Healthcare for $0.3 billion.
In 2013, to boost its global reach, GE's financial arm bought a $2.3 billion portfolio of commercial real estate loans from Deutsche Postbank AG that comprises 90% British, as well as German and French, properties. GE Capital also acquired MetLife's banking unit in 2013, adding some $6.4 billion in deposits and an established online banking platform.
Also in 2013, GE acquired Lufkin Industries, which provides oil and gas equipment including pumping units and automation equipment, for $3.3 billion. That year the company also bought Italy-based industrial manufacturer Avio's aviation business, which it renamed Avio Aero, for $4.3 billion. The move expanded GE's activities in the appealing jet propulsion segment and strengthens its global supply chain.