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GE, an industrial conglomerate pioneer, to break up
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

General Electric said on Tuesday it would split into three public companies as the storied U.S. industrial conglomerate seeks to simplify its business, pare down debt and breathe life into a battered share price.

The split marks the end of the 129-year-old conglomerate that was once the most valuable U.S. corporation and a global symbol of American business power. GE shares jumped 7% in early trading, reaching a nearly 3-1/2 year high.

GE has faced investor skepticism about its ability to turn a corner since the 2008 financial crisis, while struggling with rising debt. The company was also removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2018 following years of sliding valuation.

GE's revenue for 2020 was $79.62 billion, a far cry from the over $180 billion in revenue it booked in 2008.

In 2015, activist investor Nelson Peltz took a stake in GE and demanded changes at the company, including moving away from finance operations toward its industrial roots.

The company's stock, however, continued to underperform and was seen to have prompted former Chief Executive Jeff Immelt's departure.

Larry Culp, who became the company's first outsider CEO in 2018, was tasked with boosting cash flow and reducing debt. 

The company has since spun-off or sold several of its businesses in an effort to streamline its bewildering structure.

Boston-based GE said the three businesses would focus on energy, healthcare and aviation. It will combine GE Renewable Energy, GE Power, and GE Digital and spin off the business in early 2024.

GE will also separate the healthcare company, in which it expects to retain a stake of 19.9%, in early 2023.

In an interview with Reuters, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said he did not expect the spin-off to face any regulatory or labor issues and that there was no investor pressure behind the spin-off decision.

Following the split, it will become an aviation company, which will be helmed by Culp, who took over the conglomerate's reins in 2018. 

"By creating three industry-leading, global public companies, each can benefit from greater focus, tailored capital allocation, and strategic flexibility to drive long-term growth and value," Culp said in a statement. 

The company expects to take a one-time charge of $2 billion related to separation and operational costs and tax costs of less than $500 million.

Scott Strazik will head the combined Renewable Energy, Power and Digital business and Peter Arduini will lead GE Healthcare, the company said in a statement.

The company also expects to reduce debt by more than $75 billion by the end of 2021, compared with 2018.

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