GE files confidentially for health IPO, buoying stock

GE is moving away from the market as the company tries to narrow its focus
The General Electric logo at the company’s 2010 annual meeting in Houston.
The General Electric logo at the company’s 2010 annual meeting in Houston.

General Electric Co. has filed confidentially for an initial public offering of its health care unit, according to people familiar with the matter, moving ahead with plans to spin off its second most profitable business line.

The industrial conglomerate is working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley on the planned listing, said the people, who asked not to be identified, as the details aren’t public. A public filing is likely in the spring, they said.

A GE representative declined to comment on plans for the health unit. The shares rose 2.9 percent in U.S. pre-market trading on Wednesday.
“As we announced in June, as an independent global health-care business, we will have greater flexibility to pursue future growth opportunities, react quickly to changes in the industry and invest in innovation,” GE said in an emailed statement.

Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan declined to comment. A representative for Morgan Stanley didn’t have an immediate comment.

GE’s Healthcare Division has a small but significant presence in New York’s Capital Region: A 230,000-square-foot factory in North Greenbush where employees in three shifts manufacture the digital flat-panel X-ray detectors at the core of certain medical imaging systems. The facility was constructed in 2009 at a cost of $165 million and opened with a workforce of 150 people earning an average annual salary of $67,000. As of July 2018, the workforce was 190 people.

A public listing of GE’s health care unit would follow a similar move by Germany’s Siemens AG, which sold shares in its Healthineers business in March. The shares are up 32 percent since the IPO, valuing Siemens Healthineers AG at about $42 billion (37 billion euros).

A newly public GE health care company would rank among the world’s largest, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Karen Ubelhart said in June. Based on the valuation of peer companies, the new entity could have an enterprise value, which includes debt, of $65 billion to $70 billion, Ubelhart said.

With a spin, GE will retreat from one of its largest and most profitable markets. GE Healthcare, which earned $3.5 billion last year on sales of $19 billion, specializes in equipment such as MRI scanners and mobile diagnostic machines. The company also has a fast-growing life-sciences division, which accounts for about a quarter of GE Healthcare’s sales.

Still, health care has drawn scrutiny from some GE investors, who argue that it doesn’t fit well with GE’s primary business of making industrial equipment such as jet engines and gas turbines. Former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt in particular was criticized for the costly 2004 acquisition of British medical company Amersham Plc.

GE is moving away from the market as the company tries to narrow its focus, boost cash and stem one of the deepest slumps in its 126-year history. It agreed in April to sell a trio of health-information businesses for $1.05 billion. It’s possible that GE could pursue alternatives to an IPO for its health care unit, too.

The separation effort picked up pace in June, as then-Chief Executive Officer John Flannery unveiled a plan to sell 20 percent of GE Healthcare and spin off the rest to shareholders. After he was ousted in October amid mounting problems in the power division, successor Larry Culp went a step further, saying he may sell an even bigger piece as part of the push.

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