Jeff Immelt’s 16 years as CEO of General Electric are coming to an end. John Flannery, currently president and CEO of GE Healthcare, will take over as chief executive at GE in August before also assuming the role of chairman starting January 1. Flannery joined GE Capital 30 years ago, first focusing on LBOs and later becoming the unit's president and CEO.
As dealmaker in chief, Immelt helped GE navigate the financial crisis, beefing up its status as a manufacturing powerhouse and limiting its exposure to financial services. Along the way, he's perhaps made GE more well known for the assets it has sold than those it has bought.
GE has completed 32 acquisitions since the start of 2010, according to the PitchBook Platform, punctuated by the purchase of certain assets from France's Alstom for just under $17 billion in 2015. But the company has been far more prolific as a seller of assets under Immelt, spinning off a total of 57 businesses over the same span, per PitchBook data, including the sale of its remaining stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast for $16.7 billion in 2013. Last year was its busiest yet, as GE completed 23 sales representing nearly $61 billion in total value.
GE's completed divestments since 2010
But that was under Immelt. What kind of M&A player will GE be with Flannery at the helm?
GE Healthcare has completed 13 M&A deals since the start of 2014, the year Flannery took charge, including the March 2014 acquisition of HyClone, a biotech specializing in cell culture products, for just over $1 billion. Seven of those 13 deals have been for US targets, with four more of the acquired companies residing in Europe.
From 2005 to 2009, Flannery ran GE Capital’s Asia Pacific practice. In 2007, the unit acquired Japan’s Sanyo Credit for $1.1 billion in a push to expand its electronic equipment leasing business. During his tenure, Flannery grew earnings in Japan by 100%, Korea by 30% and Australia by 25%, per a GE press statement.
Flannery has promised “a fast but deliberate, methodical review of the whole company,” per Reuters, not mentioning any specific plans but emphasizing GE's commitment to the digital sphere.
In that case, a deal like last year's $495 million purchase of Meridium, a provider of asset performance management software, could form the cornerstone of Immelt's legacy at GE—not only as a prolific seller, but also a strategic buyer.
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