It is now scrambling to sell some assets and diverting cash away from dividends (Cox &. Cyran, NYT). This is symptomatic of what seems wrong with G.E. today which is beginning to look like a poor shadow of its former self. It had been often compared to one of its rivals that can approximate G.E.’s range of businesses in the aerospace, power generation, and infrastructure sectors but with strong financial statements.
That rival is United Technologies which has only $63 billion in market capitalization but has a very enviable healthy balance sheet. It is awash in cash and buying up assets that other companies are trying to sell, including those from G.E. itself. General Electrics example of an amalgamated business conglomerate with six divisions but several hundred individual business units under each division. Some experts are concerned it has become too big for one man to handle competently unless there is another executive in the mould of a Jack Welch, Jr.
As a sample comparison, United Technologies returned 40% last year (includes stock price appreciation and dividends declared) while G.E. gave only a one-tenth of that amount. General Electric is under intense pressure from shareholders and stock analysts to produce the returns expected of it, a 4,000% increase in stock value over the 20-year reign of Jack Welch. General Electric today has clearly lost its footing, its firm grip on markets gradually eroded. It has ceased to be the financial juggernaut derived from its engineering expertise by venturing into so many un-related business areas that it has lost its core competencies in the process. Its much-vaunted invincible market share has been torn to shreds by its lesser rivals.
To better understand what is wrong with General Electric, it is best to re-examine its whole corporate strategy and structure in light of a changing economic environment. There is a debate going on whether G.E. as a conglomerate is still valid as a business model. In fact, experts think it has become an anachronism in today’s globalized business environment.