2017 Annual Report
Dear investors, customers, partners, and employees:
On August 1, 2017, my first day as CEO, our more than 300,000 employees had an email from me waiting in their inboxes. In it, I promised that I would “always own up to what is going well and what is not.”
I will do the same with investors. When I look back at 2017, there’s no doubt: GE had a very tough year.
Revenues were down 1% at $122.1 billion, and we delivered $(0.68) in earnings per share (EPS) on a GAAP basis. Excluding charges for insurance-related items, U.S. tax reform, and industrial portfolio actions, EPS was at the low end of our reduced guidance for the year, at $1.051. In 2017, GE returned $12.1 billion to investors through dividends and buyback.
While most of our businesses delivered solid—and, in the cases of Aviation and Healthcare, world-class—performances, our cash flow was challenging. We took significant charges at Capital and Power Conversion and made painful cuts to GE’s dividend and employment. We lost some of the intense focus on operations and rigorous execution that have been GE’s hallmarks for generations.
Many people have lost faith in us. I have not. As difficult as 2017 was for everyone connected with GE, it was also a chance to reflect on what this Company means and why it exists.
I want to be very clear on one thing: While I am not proud of our performance, I am incredibly proud of this Company. Our technology solves the world’s toughest problems. We fight for and support our customers in more than 180 countries. We innovate and drive new industrial paradigms like additive manufacturing and software and analytics. We launch products that lead in their industries. We operate with the highest integrity and commitment to compliance. We invest in our leaders and in developing global, diverse talent. And our employees dedicate themselves day in and day out to fulfilling GE’s mission.
If anything gives me faith in our future, it is the passion and resolve of our teams.
If anything gives me faith in our future, it is the passion and resolve of our teams. On one level, many of them are disappointed and frustrated. I get that. On another level, I see a competitive drive aflame in them. The passion to be the best we can be for our customers. To win in the marketplace. To fight for our reputation. People who bet against that do so at their own peril.
I have talked very publicly about what I think the challenges have been at GE. The power and oil and gas markets were tough. Our metrics were too focused on EPS and operating profit and not enough on cash. We lost too much of our focus on operating rigor and discipline. And even though our teams had sustained track records of success in challenging times, hindsight suggests that we might have benefited from more debate about challenges in our tougher markets and a more skeptical assessment of the risks they posed.
Some of the people who follow the Company closely, like media and analysts, examine the past and demand accountability. I understand this. Our leadership team, Board, and employees have devoted meaningful time to identifying lessons we ought to learn and how we ought to be applying them. History teaches that you cannot move forward effectively and with purpose until you truly understand what happened in the past.
Our eyes are wide open. We already have made significant changes across our leadership teams at Corporate and Power and will continue to hold every member of every team at GE accountable for the type of performance to which our shareholders are entitled. That said, how the Company is being portrayed in certain quarters is overwrought and, in most cases, does not reflect the reality of GE that our customers and employees are seeing around the world.
We have a lot to work on, but a lot to work with.
For our investors and many others, this is a “show me” moment. We need to explain to you what moving forward looks like and what we’ll do differently to build a stronger GE. In a lot of ways, this feels familiar to what I saw when I became the CEO of Healthcare and the business had been struggling. There are things we need to fix. But we can. We know how to. And we will.
Our primary focus must be on delivering outcomes. We don’t define that solely by the number of gas turbines, wind turbines, jet engines, or CT scanners we manufacture. The ultimate purpose of our work is the children in distant villages who get access to electricity for the first time, the travelers who get home safely, and the patients who receive better diagnoses and treatments in the moments that matter most. When our teams understand customer needs and deliver outcomes for them, we always end up in a good place for our employees and our owners.
The center of gravity in the Company needs to be the business units. We will support them from the center only where we clearly and demonstrably add value—like shared research and technology, shared services, global footprint, brand, and leadership development. We completed a zero-based budget review of our Corporate operations, and in 2017 we reduced Corporate costs by $0.5 billion. We will cut more in 2018. I am determined to explore every avenue and option to make sure our businesses have the resources and flexibility to maximize their potential in the years to come.
This includes revisiting the Company’s structure. We know that we can improve by running our businesses better within our current structure. The more fundamental question we must examine is whether there are other ways that would allow us to achieve even better results. Would different structures open new and better options for our businesses? Could those be managed, given other constraints we have in the Company?
These considerations have been widely reported as a plan to “break up” GE. They are no more and no less than a desire and an obligation to explore every option to ensure the best results for our customers, employees and owners. We will continue to review this in 2018, and we will take steps only when we see a clear path to better long-term outcomes for GE. There will be a GE in the future, but it will look different from how it does today.
Running Our Businesses Better
We know how to.
- 1 Delivering outcomes for customers
- 2 Strengthen GE's businesses to thrive in the decades ahead
- 3 Run the company for Cash
- 4 Drive a culture of candor and accountability in our teams
When we talk about running our businesses better, we really mean four things—customer outcomes, our business units as the center of gravity, running the businesses for cash, and driving a new culture for the future. Let me walk though some of the specifics in more detail.
Deliver outcomes for customers
Our customers are our “North Star,” and their outcomes guide everything we do. Moving forward, we will more rigorously align our capital allocation strategy with customer needs and market realities. Above all, we are and will always be a company that values our customers, our relationships with them and our commitments to them.
Our relationship with American Airlines is a good example. In the aftermath of 9/11 and subsequent airline industry bankruptcies and mergers, GE invested in the industry when no one else would, and many strong relationships were born of that loyalty. At our senior leadership meeting in Boston this past January, Robert Isom, the president of American Airlines, credited that trust between his company and ours for American’s success. “American Airlines today wouldn’t be here in the shape and the form it is without GE and the relationships that were built over the years. We need GE to be great.” he said.
“American Airlines today wouldn’t be here in the shape and the form it is without GE and the relationships that were built over the years. We need GE to be great."
President of American Airlines
Whether it’s our largest customers like American Airlines or a local shop, our customers are counting on us to understand their problems and bring to bear all of GE’s capabilities to solve them. One way we are bringing new levels of innovation and productivity to our customers—and simultaneously empowering our businesses—is through digital applications. We're seeing time and time again the outcomes we can deliver for customers when we pair our technology with software and when analytics enable us to do more than equipment alone can do.
We’re not aiming small. Our Aviation and Digital teams, in collaboration with Qantas, built FlightPulseTM, the first mobile application built entirely on the Predix platform for the industrial IoT. FlightPulse is a post-flight analytics app that enables pilots to see their own operational flight data and monitor their own performance, all through their tablets. Using GE’s Flight Efficiency Analytics Suite, including FlightPulse, Qantas is on track to increase its annual fuel savings to more than 30 million kilograms of fuel, or a 1% savings. The driving force behind this transformation is data: When you have the data, you can put it to work, gain insights, and deliver results.
Digital is critical to our future, but we are tightening the scope of where and how much we’re going to invest. Our sales teams’ win rates are twice as high and cycle times are half as long when they sell Predix offerings into our own installed base. Predix-powered orders were up over 150% in 2017. So we’re focusing on our core installed base market—where we know our businesses can win—and expect Predix product revenues will double in 2018, to approximately $1 billion. We also will leverage our partners to pursue digital opportunities beyond our core industries. There is absolutely no change in our belief in the digital future—only some adjustments in our approach.
We’re also inventing a new future for GE through additive manufacturing. We are learning how to create more advanced designs while reducing cost through the elimination of traditional manufacturing constraints.
We’re already experiencing the benefits in our Aviation business, which used additive manufacturing to develop a new turboprop engine in just two short years. The engine, which passed its inaugural test at the end of 2017, combines more than 850 separate components into just 12, saving more than 5% in weight. More than one-third of the engine is 3D printed, which will help provide our customers with a 20% improvement in fuel burn and 10% more power than competitor offerings in the same size class.
The potential is disruptive, and the work that our teams already have done in this important area reflects GE at its very best. In 2018, each of our businesses will have a specific additive manufacturing adoption strategy and goals.
Finally, we streamlined our Global Research Centers from nine to just two, and focused more tightly and in a more deliberate manner on using them, along with our Ventures arm, as technology accelerators. They are feeding new research into game-changing technologies like energy storage, cell therapy, digital medical imaging, and other systems. Again, no change in our philosophy of shared technology and innovation—just a sharpening of our investment and approach.
Strengthen our businesses to thrive in the decades ahead
Strengthen our businesses to thrive in the decades ahead
Next, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure our business segments have the capability, resources and structures to create these outcomes.
When I first took stock of our portfolio, I saw a series of competitive businesses that were fundamentally strong. But they play in infrastructure industries that have experienced significant disruption—from globalization, digitization, shifting demands, and new players.
I concluded that we were running too many businesses at once to do them all justice. We had to admit we didn’t have the financial and management bandwidth to have so many large, global businesses in the open throttle position that they need to progress.
We are narrowing our long-term focus to three key industries where our impact is greatest: aviation, health, and energy. We run competitive businesses with market-leading positions in each of these sectors, industries that are positioned for major long-term growth. To support them, we are shifting GE’s center of gravity away from headquarters to empower the businesses with more resources. We have identified more than $20 billion of assets for potential exit and currently have more than 20 dispositions in active discussions.
The past year already brought some significant changes to our businesses. In July, we completed the transaction to create Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), in which we hold a 62.5% stake. In the third quarter, we combined our Energy Connections business with our Power business to form one integrated business called GE Power.
Our performance by business was mixed for the year:
Healthcare grew revenue by 5% and margins by 70 basis points, and new product launches like PristinaTM patient-assisted mammography helped drive continued growth. With leading positions in imaging and life sciences, together with our digital and analytics capabilities, Healthcare is well-placed to transform the future of the industry.
Markets for our Transportation and Oil & Gas segments remained challenging, leading to lower volume and profit in those segments. But despite a difficult North American freight rail market, the Transportation team landed some exciting customer wins, including a 200-locomotive order with Canadian National Railway—the largest order from a Class 1 railroad to any equipment manufacturer since 2014.
Oil & Gas
Oil & Gas is making strong progress on integration, and synergy targets are on track. The team secured several major commercial wins, including its first fullstream agreement with Twinza to support an offshore project in Papua New Guinea.
Current and Lighting’s operating profit was $93 million, up from a loss of $56 million last year. The Current team is helping customers like Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, and GM save millions of dollars in energy costs through sensor-enabled LEDs and software applications. Lighting partnered with retailers to lead the LED shift while innovating in the smart-home market, including launching the world’s first lighting product embedded with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service.
Capital enabled $14.4 billion of industrial orders in 2017 and ended the year with $157 billion of assets, including $31 billion of liquidity. However, we incurred $0.91 per share of charges related to our run-off insurance operations and related actions we are taking to make Capital smaller and more focused, while continuing to focus on vital industrial partnerships. While we exited most of our insurance operations more than a decade ago, in 2017 we took a charge to add to our insurance reserves for our run-off insurance operations. We are disappointed in the magnitude of this charge, but we think these actions, along with suspending dividends from GE Capital to GE, will be sufficient to restore GE Capital's capital adequacy to appropriate levels by the end of 2019.
Power is competing in an environment that is far more challenging than we anticipated this time last year, and its earnings were down 45% in 2017. We are preparing for a market that could be as low as 30 gigawatts in 2018, deteriorating further into 2019. And it will take us into 2019 to right-size our business for this. Over the past several months, we have examined every inch of this business and we have a plan to reset, refocus, and renew Power.
Reset, Refocus, Renew
In Power, we continuously think of the one billion people without access to electricity. Today, nearly 600 million of those people reside in sub-Saharan Africa, facing unique opportunities and challenges in transforming their energy systems. On a recent trip to the region, I witnessed the dynamics of an evolving energy ecosystem involving almost every fuel type, challenges in transmission and distribution infrastructure, and a critical need for project execution and financing capabilities. We also see how properly managed electrification helps enable growth; in Ghana, for example, GDP growth rates have risen from 3.5% in 2016 to 5.9% in 2017, and are expected to reach 8.9% in 2018. 3
The dynamic nature of Power across the globe has become increasingly local and complex. Customers everywhere are seeking energy solutions with the best cost, lowest carbon footprint and greater reliability and resiliency. In 2017, we also felt the disruptive nature of renewables penetration into the energy mix. While renewables are here to stay, we know that gas and other fuel types will remain important.
To remain competitive, we know we must operate in a leaner, more cost-efficient way. Over the past several months, we launched a three-part strategy to Reset, Refocus, and Renew GE Power.
Reset is about getting “back to basics.” In 2017, we consolidated the legacy Power and Energy Connections businesses, both of which included Alstom entities, into one business unit—giving us an end-to-end view of the energy value chain. We’ve launched a plan to fully realize the benefits of the combined business by:
Reducing structure and manufacturing footprint. We announced plans to reduce our global headcount by approximately 12,000 positions and cut $1 billion of structural costs4 in 2018. We are planning to reduce manufacturing capacity by 30% or more, and we’ll continually evaluate further reductions depending on market demand.
Improving cash conversion. We have established clear performance goals and are executing focused plays through dedicated teams. In 2017, we changed our Global Supply Chain leadership, and they are actively working to double our current inventory-turn performance, to eight, by 2020, starting with $1 billion inventory reduction in 2018.
Refocus is about defining a clear path forward across our asset lifecycle.
Expanding product and service margins. In 2017, we received a majority of global Heavy Duty Gas Turbine awards, with the HA leading in its space. But we navigated challenging HA turbine launch margin dynamics, as well as margin compression in our service business. We know we can improve margins in both areas. Consolidating our IT systems is giving us better visibility into operations in real time so we can make smarter decisions to improve them; our new CIO is streamlining our infrastructure to 80% fewer applications.
Maximizing services dollars per installed asset. We have a 1600-gigawatt installed base of assets in the world. We lost focus on holistically driving revenues across our entire fleet, especially our transactional portfolio. With new leadership, we are making progress in balancing this focus, and identified $1 billion in new service opportunities at the end of 2017.
Renew is about our commitment to become a leaner, more focused, and more efficient business with better cash and income returns. We will continue to develop high-technology products that will lead our industry. We also are investing in software and growth incubators around storage, distributed grids, and grid automation so we can successfully lead the global shift to decentralized, decarbonized, and digitized electricity infrastructure.
Our transformation will take time, but we know we can run Power in line with our own and shareholder expectations. Our teams are focused, committed, and up to the task.
President & CEO, GE Power
Our knowledge and experience across generation, transmission, distribution, and digital puts us in a unique position…
Run the Company for Cash
Run the Company for Cash
Cash is top of mind for us and our investors, and our performance through the first three quarters of 2017 fell short. Our higher-than-expected $7.8 billion of Industrial CFOA5 in the fourth quarter reflects our improving discipline and execution. We will continue to increase our visibility and execution on cash.
It's a similar story on costs. We came into the year with a structural cost-out target of $1 billion. We raised that in the third quarter, to $1.5 billion, and we delivered a little higher than that, at $1.7 billion for the year. We will cut an additional $2 billion in structural costs in 2018. In addition, we are particularly focused on product costs, attacking cost of quality, reducing manufacturing overhead, and accelerating the implementation of additive design and manufacturing.
Cost cuts also lead to reductions in workforce. We recognize that they can profoundly disrupt impacted employees, their families and their communities. We can never lose sight of what those cuts mean in people’s lives.
Finally, we are ensuring that we have compensation programs, goals and metrics that drive us to perform on a consistent basis over the long term. We are focusing on simpler reporting metrics like revenue, operating profit, and free cash flow. Compensation for our senior executives now includes a higher mix of equity, and our annual bonus program will be more closely tied to each business’ performance. These changes are designed to motivate our teams and leaders to focus on execution and cash.
The other side of running GE better is building stronger processes around capital allocation and managing enterprise risk. We have established a robust capital allocation framework and process in the past six months.
This will allow us to improve capital allocation on two levels. We have added more quantitative measures to assess alternatives for deploying the Company’s excess cash flow and to make it easier to compare the relative risk and return of dividend policy, share repurchases, acquisitions, divestitures, and joint venture investments. These will include things like intrinsic value analysis in the case of share repurchases, optimized capital structures and dividend policies, and a constant evaluation of our portfolio assets and where we want to expand or contract.
The other side of running GE better is building stronger processes around capital allocation and managing enterprise risk.
The reality, though, is that most of the Company’s capital is already allocated before getting to these kinds of topics. I view every single decision—whether it is product development, salesforce size, or other everyday factors—as a capital allocation decision. We must weigh these empirically and hold teams accountable for the results.
We formed an investment committee reporting to me that includes all our business unit leaders. They help assess where we invest—making sure we allocate to the highest and best risk-adjusted returns, double down on areas where we have strong prospects and reduce capital flow into areas that have lesser prospects. There will be—and should be—winners and losers in our capital allocation process.
Drive a culture of candor and accountability in our teams
For the past three decades, I always have been proud to say that I work at GE. The bedrock of my confidence comes from our people. GE teams built the first jet engine in the U.S., pioneered the LED, and designed the first MRI scanner for the brain. The passion, meritocracy, diversity, and integrity of our people have been—and always will be—the cornerstone of who we are.
Yet there are lots of opportunities to sharpen how we work. I am constantly pushing for more accountability at all levels of GE. I believe the culture we need to foster starts with me, and I have taken tangible steps in that direction.
The passion, meritocracy, and integrity of our people have been—and always will be—the cornerstone of who we are.
For example, all employees can ask me questions and give me feedback through an internal website. The community chooses which questions I’ll answer by video every Friday. These videos won’t win any awards for cinematography, but they are valuable for me to reach the team directly and personally.
I receive a lot of feedback and insights through that site, email, and other tools. No opinion or question is off limits for me or the leadership team. For example, I received a lot of constructive feedback about some of the content in an employee broadcast last November. I heard the team’s concerns loud and clear, responded immediately, and we moved forward.
I’ll continue to communicate responsively and candidly with employees, and I’m demanding the same of my leadership team. We talk almost every day, and we meet formally every two weeks to collaborate on strategy, risks, and execution across GE’s business units.
We also are significantly reducing the size of our Board and bringing in new experts with fresh perspectives. This revamped Board will continue to help move GE forward.
The best people, the best culture—this is what makes everything else possible. At the end of the day, we exist to deliver outcomes for our customers, performance for our owners, and an environment for our employees that motivates them, excites them, and rewards them for delivering those outcomes and that performance.
All of this makes 2018 a reset year. This is the next step in our evolution.
Of course, we aren’t operating in a vacuum. We see protectionism and nationalism continue to rise in many places amid growing U.S.-China trade tensions, uncertainty about the future of NAFTA and other trade agreements and new import tariffs around the world. Even business leaders, traditionally the champions of open markets, are turning inward; 55% of executives surveyed around the world in our recently released Global Innovation Barometer think protectionist policies will benefit their business.
As a global multinational with operations in more than 180 countries that sells more than 60% of what we make to customers abroad, we disfavor barriers to trade, investment, and the movement of people. At the same time, in an increasingly protectionist world, our global footprint becomes more and more of a singular asset. GE will continue to be a strong voice in support of free trade and robust international competition.
On balance, we are encouraged by stronger global economic growth. Developed markets remain key to GE, but we are redoubling our focus on China, India, and emerging markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. More than 1.5 billion people around the world still lack access to the basics of modern healthcare, electricity, and contemporary transportation. India and the Middle East will each need to order about 30 gigawatts of electricity every year to meet the needs of their growing populations. China will need to add three million hospital beds by 2020. Southeast Asian countries spend more than $180 billion on infrastructure every year. GE stands uniquely ready to meet these huge needs.
We see an especially strong focus in the emerging markets on economic diversification, digital transformation, and industrialization and a sense of urgency everywhere to do everything faster. For example, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 Plan, which will build 9.5 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023, portends a profound shift from being an oil-based economy to a greener one. We are helping our customers and the world reduce emissions, use less energy, save money, and increase reliability. And we go beyond the technology, connecting capital to customers and building local teams that understand the countries and cultures in which they work and how to win.
We have our work cut out for us. But we will continue to drive the world forward because we tackle its biggest challenges. A few weeks ago, I got to meet Bernadette Gabel, the young daughter and personal hero of a member of our Global Operations team, Chris Gabel. She was born with an exceedingly rare heart defect: two separate conditions that appear together in just one out of every 40 million people, meaning it’s likely to afflict fewer than 200 people on the planet. Bernadette is a strong little girl who endured three open-heart surgeries before her third birthday. Wearing a pretty pink dress and a big, beautiful smile, she stood on the stage with her dad at our leadership gathering in January thanks to the healthcare technologies that GE developed.
Then, with Bernadette in his arms, Chris challenged us to keep working to give children more years with their parents and parents more years with their children. “Let us be that company that isn’t afraid to take risks in developing breakthrough technologies that will change the game for our customers, for GE, and for the world,” Chris said. And we are going to take him up on it.
“Let us be that company that isn’t afraid to take risks in developing breakthrough technologies that will change the game for our customers, for GE and for the world.”Chris Gabel
GE Global Operations
You can find these kinds of inspirational stories everywhere across GE. Like the team of engineers, designers and managers outside Paris who designed a better mammography machine, one that takes away a primary obstacle keeping people from lifesaving screenings: fear. The new system, engineered for women by women, increases comfort for 80% of patients and decreases anxiety for most of them, all without sacrificing image quality or increasing exam time.
Our Renewable Energy and Capital teams are partnering on a project to erect 179 GE wind turbines, each twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, in the Markbygden forest in northern Sweden. When complete in 2019, it will be the largest operating wind farm in Europe, generating 650 megawatts of electricity and increasing Sweden’s installed wind generation by 12%.
And as Hurricane Irma ravaged the Gulf last year, a GE Healthcare team in Miami helped keep open six hospitals even as most other facilities were forced to evacuate.
GE’s people have always built technology to improve human life in profound ways. I will use the privilege of leading this great Company to improve the many ways we make that happen both inside and out. As I said in that first email on my first day in the job: “Doing what we said we would do matters.”
Now it’s time to take what we’ve learned, recommit to the fundamentals, and dedicate 2018 to earning back your trust and delivering for you.
Thank you for your support, investment, and belief in GE.
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer