Musings on markets the ge end game bataan death march or turnaround play gas bubbler


Today, GE is in three businesses (aviation, healthcare and transportation) that have low growth and high profitability (margins and returns on capital), in three energy-related businesses (power, renewable energy and oil) with higher growth but low profitability (margins & returns on capital), one business (lighting) that is fading quickly and one (capital) that is declining, but dragging value down with it. Note also that the collective profits reported across businesses is before corporate expenses and eliminations of $3.83 billion (not counting a one-time restructuring charge of $4.1 billion) that effectively wipe out about half of the operating profits. When computing return on capital, I allocated these expenses to the businesses, based upon revenues, and used a 25% effective tax rate, and while GE as a whole did not deliver a return that meets its cost of capital requirements in 2017, aviation, healthcare and transportation clear their hurdle rates by plenty. Replacing 2017 income in each business with a normalized value (computed using the average margins in each business between 2013 and 2017) improves the return on capital at the power and renewable energy businesses, but the overall conclusion remains the same. electricity through wood GE, as a company, does not look good, but it does have significant value creating businesses.

1. Break it up: If GE at its peak represented the glory of conglomerates, its current plight is a sign of how far conglomerates have fallen in the world. Across the world, multi business companies are finding themselves under pressure to break up and in many cases, their stockholders will be better off if they do. To gain from a break up, though, here are some of the things that have to be true.

• Separable businesses: The different businesses have to be separable, since leakages and synergies across businesses can make it more difficult to cleave off pieces to sell or spin off. On this count, GE is probably on safe ground, since its businesses (other than GE Capital) are self standing, for the most part, with little in terms of cross business effects.

• Willing buyers: There have to be potential buyers who are willing to pay prices for the pieces that exceed what they will generate as value for the holding company, as going concerns, and those higher prices either have to come from potential synergies or changed management. electricity projects for grade 7 None of GE’s businesses seem alluring enough to attract multiple bidders, willing to pay premium prices, and given GE’s shaky bargaining position, it is more likely than not that a rush to unload businesses will do more harm than good.

• Corporate Waste (at HQ): A large chunk of the corporate overhead has to viewed as wasteful, with a big drop in corporate expenses accompanying the breakup. How much of the corporate expense of $3.8 billion that GE reported in 2017 is wasteful and could be eliminated with targeted cost cuts? Looking at the breakdown of these expenses, just about $2.2 billion in for covering pension obligations and breaking up the company will not relieve the company of its contractual obligations. Some of the remaining $1.6 billion may be fat that can be cut, but even cutting the entire amount (which would be a tall order) will not turn the company around.

2. electricity transmission efficiency Retrench and Reshape: The second choice for GE is to retrench and perhaps renew itself, not as a growth company, but as a stable, high margin company in businesses where it has a competitive advantage. In broad terms, the roadmap for GE to succeed in this path is a simple one, shrinking or selling off pieces of its low-margin businesses, exiting the capital business and consolidating its presence in the aviation, healthcare and transportation businesses. gas and supply acworth ga To get a better sense of what the businesses would be worth, as continuing operations, I valued each of GE’s business, using simplistic assumptions: I used the sector cost of capital for each business, set growth in the next five years equal to revenue growth in each of GE’s businesses in the last five years and normalized operating income based upon the average operating margin that each of GE’s businesses have delivered over the last five years:

The value that I derive for equity is lower than the $103 billion that I estimated in the last section, but it does not require any near term fire sales at discounts. There are two big challenges that GE will face along the way. The first is that GE is saddled with a significant debt obligation, a legacy of GE Capital, that will not fade away quickly, and the debt obligations represent a clear and present danger to the firm. One reason for the rapid drop in GE’s stock price in the last few weeks has been the deterioration in the company’s credit standing, as can be seen in the rising default spreads for the company in the CDS market.

Given its age, it should come as no surprise that GE has been the subject of more case studies than perhaps any other company in the world. static electricity zap In its earlier days, it was used as an example of professional management, and during Jack Welch’s years, it was held up as an illustration of how aging manufacturing companies can remake themselves, with enlightened management at the top. Now that it is in trouble, I think that we look back at the last four decades and draw a different set of lessons:

• Conglomeration was, is and always will be a bad idea: I never understood the allure of conglomerates, even in their heyday. Only a corporate strategist could argue that combining companies in different businesses under one corporate umbrella, paying hefty premiums along the way to acquire these holdings, creates value, ignoring the logic that you and I as stockholders can create our own diversified and customized portfolios, without paying the same premium. If there is a lesson to learn from GE’s fall from grace, it is that even the best conglomerates are built on foundations of sand. Note, though, that while this lesson may be learned for the moment, it will be forgotten soon, as are most other business lessons are, and we will surely repeat the cycle again in the future.

• Complexity has a cost: As I was going through GE’s annual report, I was reminded again of why I have always described my vision of hell as having to value GE over and over and over again, for eternity. gasoline p This company, through its actions and by design, made itself into one of the most complex companies in history, operating in dozens of businesses and across the world, with GE Capital acting as the cherry on the complexity cake, a gigantic financial service firm embedded in a large conglomerate. While that complexity served GE well in its glory days, allowing it to hide mistakes from sloppy acquisition practices and bets gone bad, it has bedeviled the company since 2008. Investors trying to navigate their way through the company’s financials often give up and move on to easier prey. electricity lessons grade 6 It may be too late for GE to do much about this problem, but as Asian companies rise in market capitalization, you are seeing new complex behemoths coming into play across the world.

• Easy money has a catch: I know that 20/20 hindsight is both easy and unfair, but GE’s experiences with GE Capital bring home an age-old business truth that when a business looks like it can make you easy money, there is always a catch. Jack Welch initial foray into and subsequent expansion of GE Capital was built on the allure that it was a lot easier to make money in financial services than in manufacturing. From the perspective of having limited capital investment and growing quickly, that was true, but financial service firms through history have always had periods of plenty interspersed with bouts of gut-wrenching and intense pain, when borrowers start defaulting and capital markets freeze up. By making GE Capital such a big part of GE, Welch bet the farm on its continued success, and that bet went sour in 2008.

• The Savior CEO is a myth: I come to neither bury nor praise Jack Welch, but notwithstanding the fact that he has been gone almost two decades from the firm, GE remains the house that Jack built. Since Welch got the glory that came from GE’s rise in the last twenty years of the last century, he deserves a portion of the blame for what has happened since. Don’t get me wrong! Jack Welch was an inspirational top manager, a man with vision and drive, but he was also an imperial CEO, who made his board of directors a rubber stamp for his actions. As we look at a new generation of successful companies, this time in the technology space (the FANG stocks and the Chinese giants), with visionary founders at the top, it is worth remembering that power left unchecked in any person (no matter how smart and visionary) is dangerous.