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Breaking up is hard to do: Goliath GE to split after 130 years


General Electric says it will split into three public companies as the storied US industrial conglomerate seeks to simplify its business, pare down debt and breathe life into a battered share price.

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The split marks the end of the 129-year-old conglomerate that was once the most valuable US corporation and a global symbol of US business power.

GE shares were up 6 per cent in morning trade, reaching a nearly three and a half year high.

The Boston-based company said the three businesses would focus on energy, healthcare and aviation.

It will combine GE Renewable Energy, GE Power, and GE Digital and spin off the business in early 2024.

GE will also separate the healthcare company, in which it expects to retain a stake of 19.9 per cent, in early 2023.

Following the split, it will become an aviation company, helmed by GE Chief Executive Larry Culp.

It is the boldest attempt under Culp, who took GE’s reins in 2018, to simplify the company’s business.

Culp has focused on reducing debt and improving cash flows by streamlining operations, cutting overhead costs and faster collections from customers.

The measures have led to an improvement in GE’s balance sheet, putting it on track to reduce debt by more than $US75 billion ($A101 billion) by the end of 2021.

In an interview with Reuters, Culp said the decision to split the company was paved by GE’s progress in terms of repairing its balance sheet and operational performance.

He did not expect the spin-off to face any regulatory or labour issues and that there was no investor pressure behind the spin-off decision.

“Spins create a lot of value,” he said in the interview.

“These are moves geared toward making GE stronger, helping our businesses and the teams perform better.”

A founding member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896, GE spent more than a century in that storied stock index before getting the boot in 2018 following years of sliding valuation.

It created the first electric cooking range and clothes washer, the first nuclear power plant and supplied the US space program.

Its interests have spanned from television, movies and insurance to lightbulbs and locomotives.

However, it has been facing investor scepticism about its ability to turn a corner since the 2008 financial crisis while struggling with debt.

The company’s revenue for 2020 was $US79.62 billion, a far cry from the over $US180 billion in revenue it booked in 2008.

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