GE close to selling nearly all its real estate holdings - source

April 9
7:15 PM 2015

General Electric Co is nearing a deal to sell practically all of its $30 billion real estate assets to a consortium led by Blackstone Group and Wells Fargo & Co, according to a person familiar with the matter.

An announcement could come as early as Friday, the person said. A GE spokesman declined to comment.

GE has been retreating from its property investments globally as it focuses on improving profits from sales of industrial products such as jet engines, generators, electric grid gear and oil field equipment. GE's industrial operations are expected to post a rise of at least 10 percent in profit this year.

Revenue from the company's real estate business fell 24 percent in 2014, partly due to a decrease in net gains on property sales.

Chief Executive Jeff Immelt has said he expects profits from the company's aviation, power & water and other industrial businesses to rise to 75 percent of the company's total by 2016 from 55 percent in 2013.

To achieve that goal, he has been remaking GE's portfolio of businesses, spinning off a retail finance operation, selling GE's appliance business to Sweden's Electrolux AB and agreeing to buy Alstom SA's power generation and electric grid business for $14 billion.

Blackstone said in November it would buy GE's property unit in Japan in a deal worth more than $1.6 billion. The private equity firm also bought warehouses and development land in the United States from GE's real estate unit.

GE is expected to report an average 9 percent drop in earnings when it reports first-quarter results next week, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

GE shares were up 2.4 percent at $25.62 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange following the Wall Street Journal's report of the possible sale of the real estate holdings. Up to Wednesday's close, the stock had fallen about 1 percent this year.

Real estate accounted for about 7 percent of GE Capital's total $499 billion in assets related to continuing operations as of last Dec. 31, according to the company's fourth quarter financial report.

In his letter to shareholders last month, Immelt said his plan is to reposition GE Capital "as a smaller, safer specialty finance leader with less leverage and more liquidity."

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