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GE: industrial stalwart contemplates a general overhaul
OCTOBER 5, 2018 | Financial Times | by Ed Crooks in New York.

“GE Power is at death’s door,” says Scott Davis, an analyst at Melius Research. “It’s going to require a massive change in strategy to fix it.”

The Alstom deal is far from being GE’s only strategic mis-step. But it is emblematic of two of the company’s flaws: a weakness for dealmaking, and an inability to respond effectively to a changing market. Together, those failings go a long way to explaining why one of the greatest names in American business, an original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average at its creation in 1896, has lost more than 80 per cent of its market capitalisation since 2000......while GE’s leaders were focused on a deal that might have been perfect 10 or 20 years ago, they were underestimating the scale of the changes hitting the electricity industry. As the costs of wind and solar power have plunged, they have become competitive against the gas-fired and coal-fired power plants that are GE and Alstom’s forte. It is a mistake that companies often make at times of structural change, says Kingsmill Bond of the Carbon Tracker Initiative: “They confused the current size of the market with the future growth of the market.”.....As the scale of the problem emerged, Mr Flannery moved to cut costs. Last December he announced 12,000 jobs would go from the power division. But reducing headcount is slow work in Europe, especially in France, where Mr Immelt had pledged to create a net 1,000 additional jobs by the end of 2018......The urgency of the crisis creates opportunities to make radical changes. A group of investors including hedge fund manager Sir Christopher Hohn of the Children’s Investment Fund on Friday published a letter to Mr Culp, urging him to scale back investment in gas and coal power and embrace clean energy.....Giving up on selling new turbines to concentrate on the more lucrative services business would be a momentous step, but Mr Davis says that like General Motors during the 2008 financial crisis, the business is in urgent need of a radical rethink.
Alstom  CEOs  change  cost-cutting  deal-making  DJIA  energy  GE  Jack_Welch  Jeffrey_Immelt  shifting_tastes  Siemens  structural_change  John_Flannery  exits 
october 2018 by jerryking
GE’s flow of financial information has become fantastically muddled - Too little information
Jan 27th 2018

Jan 27th 2018

The curse of rotten information can strike companies, too. That seems to be the case with General Electric (GE), which has had a vertiginous fall. Its shares, cashflow and forecast profits have dropped by about 50% since 2015. .....GE’s boss, John Flannery, an insider who took office in August, must clear up the mess made by his predecessor, Jeff Immelt.....Is the conglomerate formerly known as the world’s best-run firm a victim of weak demand for gas turbines, a low oil price, lavish digital initiatives, timing lags in client payments, morbidity rates, bad deals, cost overruns or a 20-year squeeze in industrial-equipment margins because of Chinese competition? You can imagine GE’s 12-man board blinking at this list, like Pentagon generals huddled around maps of the Gulf of Tonkin which they are too embarrassed to admit they do not understand......Schumpeter’s theory is that GE’s flow of financial information has become fantastically muddled. There is lots of it about.....[does great granularity necessarily lead to greater insight].... it offers volume and ambiguity instead of brevity and clarity. It is impossible—certainly for outsiders, probably for the board, and possibly for Mr Flannery—to answer central questions. How much cashflow does GE sustainably make and where? How much capital does it employ and where? What liabilities must be serviced before shareholders get their profits?....GE's public accounting system reveals eight problems.
(1) No consistent measure of performance.....18 definitions of group profits and cashflow....there is a large gap between most measures of profits and free cashflow.
(2) GE’s seven operating divisions (power, for example, or aviation) are allowed to use a flattering definition of profit that excludes billions of dollars of supposedly one-off costs. Their total profits are almost twice as big as the firm’s.
(3) GE does not assess itself on a geographical basis. Does China yield solid returns on capital? Has Saudi Arabia been a good bet? No one seems to know.
(4) GE pays little attention to the total capital it employs, which has ballooned by about 50% over the past decade (excluding its financial arm). Its managers rarely talk about it and have set no targets. It is unclear which parts of the firm soak up disproportionate resources relative to profits, diluting returns.
(5), it is hard to know if GE’s leverage is sustainable. Its net debts are 2.6 times its gross operating profits, again excluding its financial arm. That is high relative to its peers—for Siemens and Honeywell the ratio is about one.
(6) the strength of GE’s financial arm is unclear. The new insurance loss will lower its tangible equity to 8% of assets. This is well below the comfort level.
(7) it is hard to calibrate the risk this poses to GE shareholders. GE likes to hint that its industrial and financial arms are run separately. But they are umbilically connected by a mesh of cross-guarantees, factoring arrangements and other transactions.
(8) is GE sure that its industrial balance-sheet accurately measures its capital employed and its liabilities? Some 46% of assets are intangible, which are hard to pin down financially: for example, goodwill and “contract” assets where GE has booked profits but not been paid yet.

Time for some command and control

GE’s situation is like that of the global bank conglomerates post-financial crisis. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC did not entirely trust their own numbers and lacked a framework for assessing which bits of their sprawl created value for shareholders. Today, after much toil, the people running these firms know whether, say, loans in California or trading in India make sense.

This does not happen naturally. If neglected, financial reporting becomes a hostage to internal politics, with different constituencies claiming they bring in sales, while arguing that costs and capital are someone else’s problem. Flannery is a numbers guy who seeks to slim GE to its profitable essence. But he is trapped in a financial construct that makes it hard to pursue that mission intelligently. Until he re-engineers how GE measures itself, he will be stumbling about in the murk.
measurements  metrics  GE  financial_metrics  financial_performance  level_of_comfort  John_Flannery  Jeffrey_Immelt  cash_flows  ROCE  information_overload  financial_reporting  calibration 
february 2018 by jerryking
The Economy Needs Amazons, but It Mostly Has GEs
the country as a whole badly needs some rules-defying risk-taking. For business, that means a bit more Amazon in the boardroom and a bit less GE....The purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon introduced a level of volatility and turmoil (at least singularly to the retail sector) which had been absent from the market for a long time....The rest of the market remained placid. And months of historically low volatility has begun to look like dangerous complacency....... another, potentially more troubling explanation: stagnation. Muted markets may be an inevitable product of steady, sluggish growth, low and predictable interest rates, declining business startups and failures, and decreased competition. In other words, the problem is, there aren’t enough Amazons disrupting the stock market and the economy.....Jeffrey Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, he has prioritized expansion and innovation ahead of profit. In its early years, free cash flow—cash from operations minus CAPEX—hovered around zero. Mr. Bezos approaches new products like a VC. Many will flop (like the Fire smartphone), but some will be home runs (e.g. AWS). Amazon launched Prime, which offers free delivery in exchange for an annual fee, in 2005. John Blackledge, notes Amazon has repeatedly innovated in ways that make Prime even more valuable to subscribers.......Amazon is now profitable, yet cash retention remains secondary to building great products and delighting and retaining customers.

....If Amazon is one extreme in how companies invest, General ElectricCo. is the other. It has long been fastidious about capital and cash deployment......CEO Jack Welch perfected this approach in the 1990s.. it continued under Jeffrey Immelt. Last week, Mr. Immelt said he would retire, after 16 years struggling to restore growth. In part, that reflected how financial engineering had inflated profits under Mr. Welch. Yet Mr. Immelt ’s investment decisions too often chased the conventional wisdom on Wall Street and in Washington. ...........growth is hard for any company that dominates its markets as much as GE does. GE’s size also attracts debilitating political scrutiny. ....In response to new regulations and pressure from Wall Street, Mr. Immelt largely dismantled the business...........Investors still want GE to return cash to shareholders, and it has obliged,.....while good for shareholders in the short run, this is no recipe for growth in the long run. GE’s cash flow is shrinking despite the company’s focus on preserving it, while Amazon’s is growing despite that company’s readiness to spend it.......North American boardrooms desparately needs some rules-defying risk-taking. For business, that means a bit more Amazon in the boardroom and a bit less GE

[ See John Authers article which references Vix]

The "Minsky Moment" occurs when investors realize that they have paid far too much for the credits that have bought, no buyers can be found, and the system collapses. Aka Wile E. Coyote running-off-a-cliff....The greatest dangers to us are not from things we perceive to be high-risk, because we generally treat them carefully. Trouble arises from that which we perceive to be low-risk.
digital_economy  Amazon  GE  Amazon_Prime  risk-taking  volatility  Greg_Ip  stagnation  cash_flows  long-term  growth  start_ups  complacency  instability  conventional_wisdom  Jeffrey_Immelt  Jack_Welch  conglomerates  delighting_customers  capital_allocation  Jeff_Bezos  financial_engineering  rule_breaking 
june 2017 by jerryking
The Decline of the Baronial C.E.O. - The New York Times
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZJUNE 17, 2017

General Electric is just the latest storied name in corporate America to show its leader the door. Ford’s chief executive, Mark Fields, had been in the job for less than three years when he was fired in late May. Two weeks earlier, Mario Longhi of U.S. Steel abruptly stepped down. With these departures, the American era of the baronial chief executive, sitting atop an industrial dominion with all the attendant privileges, is drawing to a close.....Jeffrey Immelt tried to change G.E., yet couldn’t react quickly enough to the forces affecting companies like his......[(Amazon + Whole Foods) shows how] the digital age has upended the competitive landscape, pitting companies in vastly different industries against one another.

These include the rising power of activist investors, who buy up stakes in companies and then demand changes. Activists are now hunting much bigger game, demanding double-digit annual earnings growth in a stagnant economy. Or else.....Boards, too, have changed, evolving from country-club-like collections of the same familiar faces into a much more diverse and demanding constituency.....for most of the Fortune 500, the unquestioned power and perks, the imperviousness to criticism from the likes of shareholders, and the outsize public profile that once automatically came with the corner office have gone the way of the typewriter and the Dictaphone.....[today] ...wading into bitterly partisan public debates offers little upside for corporate leaders, and risks damage to their company’s reputation.

As a result, while companies in many ways have more economic and political power than ever, “chief executives now shy away from weighing in on the policy level or broader societal issues,” Mr. Sharer said. “They’re more focused on running their companies.”......Mr. Immelt’s exit leaves a void at the intersection of business and public policy,.....“If you start fooling around in Washington with the Business Roundtable or writing op-eds, activist investors will ask what you’re doing,”....[GE] became a natural target for activist investors. One of those was Nelson Peltz, a onetime corporate raider who relied on Michael R. Milken’s junk bonds for financing back in the 1980s.
CEOs  GE  executive_management  shareholder_activism  digital_disruption  Jeffrey_Immelt  disruption  technological_change  decline  Vijay_Govindarajan  boards_&_directors_&_governance 
june 2017 by jerryking
GE’s CEO choice pushes the boundaries – Breakingviews
12 June 2017 By Rob Cox

Despite the worldwide upheaval confronting chieftains of multinational companies, Flannery has been dealt a better hand. Immelt took over a GE addicted to finance, willing to prostitute the stellar credit ratings of its world-class manufacturing and engineering capabilities for a quick buck. Over his tenure, which started ominously on Sept. 11, 2001, Immelt did wean the company off $260 billion of financial assets, but only after the crisis forced his hand. He also divested appliances, plastics and media.

For all this reimagining of GE, which included moving the headquarters to Boston and a plunge into the industrial internet, Immelt has been dogged by a poorly performing stock. GE returned $143 billion in dividends to shareholders under his stewardship, but the shares also have tumbled by some 30 percent.

Although Flannery most recently has been running the company’s subscale healthcare division, he has pranced across GE’s landscape. His corporate bio begins in evaluating risk for leveraged buyouts. Since then, it has been a global grand tour, running businesses across Asia and in India and Argentina. This is evidence of how GE’s growth resides in places where thirst for power, transportation, energy and healthcare – all of which GE’s products aim to sate – will be in greater demand, even as Immelt professed last year that protectionist tendencies worldwide means “companies must navigate the world on their own.”
GE  John_Flannery  appointments  CEOs  Jeffrey_Immelt  dislocations  multinationals 
june 2017 by jerryking
G.E., the 124-Year-Old Software Start-Up - The New York Times
By STEVE LOHRAUG. 27, 2016
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software  predictive_maintenance  paranoia  Jeffrey_Immelt  GE  analytics  Industrial_Internet 
august 2016 by jerryking
Should GE Go Into the Hospital Biz?
November 20, 2002 | WSJ.com | By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR

We're talking a $400 billion industry slated to grow inexorably, thanks to aging baby boomers with large resources to spend on their hypochondria and an incentive system that encourages them not to skimp on anything that might make them feel better. Yet hospitals still operate on a piecework, cottage-industry model. Giant strides could be made just by eliminating handwritten clinical data and the bountiful errors flowing therefrom. This ought to be a big opportunity for Jeff Immelt.

GE loves to talk about building up service complements to its manufacturing business....Hospitals are local businesses so the scale required to be dominant in a local market doesn't mean buying a significant position in the whole industry coast to coast.
Holman_Jenkins  GE  hospitals  Jeffrey_Immelt 
march 2013 by jerryking
Jeffrey Immelt has a cure for Canada's 'resource curse' - The Globe and Mail
SHAWN McCARTHY - GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER

TORONTO — From Saturday's Globe and Mail (Correction included)

Published Friday, Mar. 30 2012
============================
the oil exporter curse, which pushed up the exchange rate, making it cheaper to import finished goods than produce them. a country’s once thriving [fill in the blank e.g. textile industry] becomes a pale shadow of itself.
Jeffrey_Immelt  GE  Canada  natural_resources  commodities  resource_curse 
june 2012 by jerryking
The creative future
Aug 1, 2005 | Business Week pg. 72 | By Bruce Nussbaum, Robert Berner and Diane Brady of BusinessWeek
design  P&G  GE  Swiffer  Jeffrey_Immelt 
may 2012 by jerryking
GE Chief Charts His Own Strategy - WSJ.com
September 23, 2003 | WSJ | By CAROL HYMOWITZ.

"We're living in a world of more volatility, higher environmental risks and slower growth," says Mr. Immelt. "Companies that depend just on acquisitions to get growth will be left behind. The only way to get growth is to differentiate oneself with new products and services."
Carol_Hymowitz  GE  Jeffrey_Immelt  slow_growth  new_products  risks  volatility  differentiation 
march 2012 by jerryking
How GE Teaches Teams to Lead Change
January 009 | HBR | by Steven Prokesch.

Idea in Brief

Management development programs that focus on teaching and inspiring individuals to apply new approaches have a fundamental flaw: If other members of an individual’s team have not taken the course, they may resist efforts to change.

The antidote to this problem is training intact management teams.

When managers go through a program together, they emerge with a consensus view of the opportunities and problems and how best to attack them. The result: faster and more effective change.
HBR  GE  teaching  teams  change  change_management  shared_consciousness  shared_experiences  Jeffrey_Immelt  training  leadership_development  innovation  growth 
november 2011 by jerryking
U.S. needs to try harder on the global stage - The Globe and Mail
CHRYSTIA FREELAND | Columnist profile
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Oct. 20, 2011

I had breakfast this week with Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive officer of GE, and the main dish on the menu was tough love. In an Americans can still win in the global economy – but that they need to fight harder...The competition Mr. Immelt and Ms. Clinton want U.S. companies to win is the battle for dominance in the global marketplace and for the chequebook of the growing global middle class....As a cautionary counterexample, he cited Japan. “When I was a young guy, when I first started with GE, Jack Welch sent us all to Japan because in those days Japan was gonna crush us,” he said. “And we learned a lot about Japan when we were there. But over the subsequent 30 years, the Japanese companies all fell behind. And the reason why they fell behind is because they didn’t globalize. They didn’t have to go out and sing for their dinner in every corner of the world. That’s not the case with GE. It’s not the case with other American multinationals.”...Smart businesses have figured out how to globalize. We don’t yet know if countries can do the same.
globalization  GE  Jeffrey_Immelt  Chrystia_Freeland  multinationals  exporting  national_identity  tough_love  global_economy 
october 2011 by jerryking
China Venture Is Good for GE but Is It Good for U.S.? - WSJ.com
SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

China Venture Is Good for GE but Is It Good for U.S.?

By JOHN BUSSEY
GE  Jeffrey_Immelt  China  avionics  aerospace  aviation  joint_ventures  technology_transfers 
september 2011 by jerryking
For one U.S. CEO, China’s rise should not be feared but exploited - The Globe and Mail
Jan. 21, 2011 | Globe and Mail | by CHRYSTIA FREELAND.

The China challenge, in Mr. Immelt's view, is about much more than a manipulated exchange rate and "cheap labour." "It is the adaptability, it is the speed with which they move, it is the unanimity of purpose, it is the productivity of thought," he said, adding that when he visits his interlocutors at the Ministry of Railways in Beijing, the mandarins are at work on Sunday....Mr. Immelt thinks he knows what America needs to do to thrive in this changed world. "If you want to be a great country, which the U.S. has every right to want to be, you have got to be thinking about being a better exporter," he said. "Our only destiny can be as a high-tech exporter, that creates jobs, high-paying jobs … Export-led growth is the key to national success."
==================================
See Tom Friedman's reference to "This is a world in which education, innovation and talent will be rewarded more than ever. This is a world in which there will be no more “developed” and “developing countries,” but only HIEs (high-imagination-enabling countries) and LIEs (low-imagination-enabling countries)."
Chrystia_Freeland  China_rising  GE  Jeffrey_Immelt  China  Hu_Jintao  exporting  adaptability  speed  unanimity  mission-driven  purpose 
january 2011 by jerryking
Obama Sends Pro-Business Signal With Adviser Choice - NYTimes.com
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: January 21, 2011
Jeffrey_Immelt  Obama  GE  pro-business 
january 2011 by jerryking
GE's Immelt Targets Elderly Japan - WSJ.com
JUNE 1, 2010 |WSJ| By DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI. Targeting Japan's
growing elderly population, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt pushed the country
Monday to invest in health-care IT systems & devices that make home
treatment easier. Immelt, who was in Tokyo speaking at GE's
"Healthymagination" conference, said health care is a growing business
in both developed & emerging markets but the Japanese could play a
leading role in several trends taking place in the industry. "So if I
were to write a business plan for you, it would be to dominate
health-care IT and home health-care devices," ... "Those are places in
health care you can actually lead." Fielding a question about how to
re-energize a Japan beset with deflation, an aging population & the
rise of Asian neighbors, Immelt said the high rate of Internet
connectivity makes the country fertile ground to develop Web-based
information technology systems that combine electronics medical records
with the tools for clinical decision making.
GE  Jeffrey_Immelt  Japan  elderly  healthcare  health_informatics 
november 2010 by jerryking
GE's CEO shares his tips for better management
June 11, 2004 | Globe & Mail | By HARVEY SCHACHTER.
Simplify constantly: Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three
things the organization is working on.

Understand breadth, depth and context: It's vital to understand how your
organization fits into the world. Indeed, that was the most important
thing he learned since taking over the reins.
GE  Harvey_Schachter  leadership  CEOs  Jeffrey_Immelt  contextual 
december 2009 by jerryking

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