GE to spin off health care business in latest shake-up

Adjust Comment Print

It will take up to three years to sell its two-thirds stake in Baker Hughes, valued at around $23 billion.

The company's latest round of winnowing arrived Tuesday, the first time since 1907 that General Electric Co. will not be a member of the exclusive Dow Jones industrial average at the opening bell.

Former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who ran the company for 16 years, from shortly before the 9/11 attacks to last summer, said in a statement that important elements of GE's history would continue after the latest batch of sales are done.

But Baker Hughes' new majority owner, GE, has been struggling to reward shareholders and has been seeking ways to cut debt and find renewed focus on a few businesses rather than its current sprawling conglomerate of operations.

The company said the moves will lower its debt by $25 billion and reduce risk.

Renewables, together with power and aviation, will become the core businesses for the company "making it easier for investors to follow and measure", according to GE as part of the results of a strategic review. S&P analysts said divesting the health-care business would improve GE's balance sheet but leave the less-diversified company more vulnerable to volatility.

Flannery, upon taking over the company just over a year ago, vowed to divest $20 billion in assets. GE had been the only remaining original member of the Dow - it joined in 1896 but was booted twice in its early years - and will be replaced by the Walgreens Boots Alliance. The company said those sales are essentially complete.

GE shares closed Monday at $12.75.

These units accounted for more than half of GE's $122 billion in revenue a year ago.

The company began jettisoning smaller units to raise cash, and speculation was that the healthcare division would be one of them.

"We've changed many things, but the essence of GE endures", he said. GE's aviation business has soared on strong demand for jet engines, but its power unit has suffered declining profit, and GE now plans to pump another $3 billion into its GE Capital finance business next year.

The news comes one day after GE said it was selling its industrial gas-engine business to Boston's Advent International for $3.25 billion.

Despite its storied lineage, GE Healthcare got caught in the downdraft created when its parent company in 2017 announced a massive one-time charge to write off liabilities related to a long-term care insurance business that it has sold off.