GE released its fourth-quarter results this morning, capping a pivotal year when the company sold much of its lending business and embraced software to become the world’s largest digital-industrial company.
For GE, 2015 was a long string of multi-billion deals. The company has closed transactions to sell GE Capital assets valued at more than $104 billion and signed deals valued at $157 billion – ahead of plan. GE Capital also completed a share exchange program following the 2014 Synchrony IPO that will contribute to the company’s effort to return more than $90 billion to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks. The share exchange, the largest in history, reduced GE share count by almost 700 million shares.
GE also acquired Alstom’s power and grid business, the company’s largest acquisition ever, and launched GE Digital, a new unit that will work closely with all GE businesses and help them and their customers take advantage of the Industrial Internet.
Told by the numbers, GE beat analyst estimates, reporting $0.52 per share in operating earnings (EPS) from industrial businesses for the quarter, a 27 percent increase from the prior-year period. Industrial revenues fell by 1 percent on an organic basis for the quarter, but rose 3 percent organically for the year. Industrial profit for 2015 rose 7 percent organically. The company also reported 80 basis points (1 basis point = 1/100 of a percent) of industrial margin growth, and a rise of 110 basis points in gross margins (excluding Alstom). Orders were up 3 percent for the quarter.
“GE executed well in a slow-growth environment,” said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO. “For 2015, we accomplished all of the goals we outlined for investors. We recognize that the first few weeks of 2016 have been especially volatile. However, our orders in the fourth quarter grew 1 percent organically and our backlog grew to $315 billion with Alstom. We believe in the strength of our business model and that there is enough growth out there to deliver in 2016.”
After closing the Alstom acquisition in November of last year, GE has already started combining Alstom’s technologies with its industrial segments, bringing scale and expertise to their customers and global installed base. GE said Alstom also strengthened the GE Store – the way the company shares technology, talent, expertise and connections across its businesses – providing access to growth markets and boosting technical leadership, services and software offerings. GE said Alstom’s impact was on track to add $0.05 per share to earnings in 2016.
GE also reported $5 billion in 2015 revenue for GE Digital. The new unit, which GE launched in November, brings together all of the digital capabilities from across the company into one organization, integrating GE’s Software Center, the company’s global information technology and commercial software teams, and cyber security. GE aims to be a top 10 software company by 2020.
GE has been keeping up the pace in 2016. In January, it announced it would sell its Appliances business to Haier – less than two months after the company’s previous deal with Electrolux ended.