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GE Meets Low-Watt Forecast


Conglomerate to unplug appliance, consumer credit divisions.


General Electric (GE) is often seen as a proxy for the global economy: Its massively diversified business spans nearly every realm - from consumer credit to plastics to airplane engines.

This year, as concerns over slowing growth and rising prices choke consumers worldwide, GE's ability to deliver consistent, secure returns has come under fire.

After lowering guidance earlier this year, the massive industrial conglomerate released second-quarter earnings this morning that met or improved upon analysts' diminished expectations. According to The Wall Street Journal:

  • Profit fell 3.9% from a year ago to $5.1 billion, or $0.51 per share
  • Revenue rose 11% to $46.9 billion, topping analyst expectations
  • CEO Jeffrey Immelt reiterated 2008 earnings per share of $2.20 to $2.30

The company said most of its divisions performed better than expected, with the exception of NBC Universal and the industrials - which it's considering spinning off anyway.

Notably, the company said it won't need to raise capital to stem losses from its financial services operations. GE shares have been under pressure as of late, amid swirling speculation it would be forced to raise money to strengthen its balance sheet.

Instead, the firm has announced plans to jettison various low-growth businesses, including its consumer appliances unit, a mainstay for the more than century-old firm. Just this morning, the company said it would sell its Japanese credit card business to Shinsei Bank for $5.4 billion.

While GE's $30 billion domestic consumer credit division is also on the block, prospective buyers aren't exactly stampeding to get to the front of the line. Though Target (TGT) sold a chunk of its credit card business to JP Morgan (JPM) back in May, the capital window is now closed for most financial firms. GE may therefore be hard pressed to find a bidder.

CEO Immelt and his team are working to slim down the company, focusing on growth and rewarding shareholders for their loyalty.

Investors used to view GE as an easy way to buoy the American economy and pick up a few bucks every quarter in the form of a healthy dividend. Now, with the company and its subsidiaries involved in business in every corner of the globe, that trade-off is no longer so simple.

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