GE Market Value Seen Lagging Piece-by-Piece Tally by $90 Billion

  • Flannery’s overhaul needs to be ‘more aggressive,’ Melius says
  • Searching for value in iconic manufacturer’s constituent parts

A gas turbine sits on the assembly line at the General Electric Co. energy plant in Greenville, South Carolina.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

General Electric Co.’s new boss says he’ll unload $20 billion in assets. Wall Street wonders if that’s enough.

With several divisions slumping and the stock dropping to a five-year low last week, Chief Executive Officer John Flannery is under rising pressure to shake up the 125-year-old manufacturer. One potential strategy to unlock value would be a portfolio overhaul, with analysts broaching the possibility of a more sweeping breakup.

“Flannery will eventually need to break GE apart in a more aggressive fashion,” Scott Davis, head of Melius Research, said in a recent note. The CEO’s plan, which calls for GE to sell or spin off assets amounting to roughly 15 percent of the company’s total, is “hardly a big change,” Davis said. “We think 50 percent is more in the ballpark of what’s needed.”

Read more: Bloomberg Gadfly on a GE Breakup

GE’s stock has plunged 36 percent this year, by far the worst in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, cutting the market value to $175 billion. That’s almost $90 billion below what the company should be worth, based on the anticipated future earnings of each business unit, according to Melius.

Flannery is poised Nov. 13 to unveil how he intends to reshape GE. “Everything is on the table,” he told investors last month. 

Here’s a look at what might -- and might not -- be on the block.

GE AVIATION

This crown jewel, which makes jet engines, probably isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean it will look the same. One question is whether upheaval in the aircraft-parts market -- highlighted by United Technologies Corp.’s pending acquisition of Rockwell Collins Inc. -- will put assets such as GE’s avionics operation in play.

GE POWER

With gas turbines slumping, the power division has been a big source of headaches, leading some analysts to suggest that the entire business would be a potential candidate for sale or spinoff. More realistic would be for GE to unload portions of GE Power, including the Jenbacher and Waukesha gas-engine businesses, Davis said.

GE HEALTHCARE

Investors and analysts long have debated whether the unit, which sells medical scanners, makes sense with GE’s other businesses. Flannery, who ran GE Healthcare before becoming CEO, has defended its position. Still, GE could look to shed portions of the business, including information technology.

OIL & GAS/BAKER HUGHES

GE took a step away from the tough oil and gas market this year by combining the unit with Baker Hughes, a company in which GE now owns a majority stake. GE may opt for a full separation through a “staged exit” of its remaining holding, according to Deane Dray, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

GE CAPITAL

This operation’s highest-profile unit, the jet-leasing business known as Gecas, could be sold or spun off, according to Davis. The division “is an amazing asset and throws off a lot of cash,” he said in a note. “Gecas would be able to take on higher levels of debt and could be outright bought by someone else.”

GE RENEWABLE ENERGY

The France-based division is poised to capitalize on clean-energy trends, with sizable wind and hydroelectric businesses. That could make it a valuable asset for sale.

GE TRANSPORTATION

Many analysts believe the locomotive-manufacturing operation will be one of the first to go under Flannery. GE Transportation has struggled amid a downturn in the rail market and a trend toward electrification. Jamie Miller was the division’s CEO until last month, when she was promoted to chief financial officer of the parent company.

GE LIGHTING

The small division is already undergoing changes. GE said earlier this year that it would get rid of the consumer light-bulb operations. A sale of its commercial lighting business, known as Current, is also possible, said Jeff Sprague, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners.

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