Friday, December 11, 2009

Mean Street: The Lost Cause of General Electric and Jeff Immelt (GE)

The stock is trading up eleven cents at $15.72. Yesterday, linking to the story of their big wind turbine order I said:
GE is up a nickel at $15.71. This is one sick stock, I'm starting to think that the only catalyst to bust it out will be Immelt's departure....
From the WSJ's Deal Journal:

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt’s speech on Wednesday at West Point was billed as “Renewing American Leadership.”

But after I read his address, the only thing it renewed were my doubts over Immelt’s past leadership and where he was taking the company.

It certainly is a remarkable speech. Under Immelt’s eight years at the helm, General Electric has lost almost two-thirds of its value. Earlier this year, GE was on the verge of a total meltdown. So was GE’s “leadership” to blame?

Apparently not. It’s American capitalism that’s at fault, Immelt implies. All that “meanness and greed”. Bad rich people. In Immelt’s view, good riddance to the 20th Century “individualistic win-lose game.”

So how does Immelt explain that his mentor at GE, Jack Welch took hundreds of millions of dollars out of General Electric as compensation? How does Immelt justify the $14.7 million he was paid in 2007?

He doesn’t bother. Rather, he laments the sorry state of the American economy. We’ve lost our way because America “started to forget the fundamentals, and lost sight of the core competencies of a successful modern economy.”

But is he talking about America or about GE? He confesses that GE was not a “perfect company. We, too, had issues in financial services.”

In fact, GE under Welch and Immelt was the perfect metaphor for what happened to the American economy. Both GE and USA Inc. grew fixated on clever financing tricks rather than clever engineering. Over time, GE wasn’t a triple A industrial conglomerate. It was a highly-leveraged financial services company that had some big industrial businesses.

But perhaps, even more worrying to GE shareholders should be how Immelt talked about America’s future.

“The world is being reset,” Immelt says. Later he adds, “We need a new strategy for the economy.”

And in one of those wonderful coincidences, Immelt’s vision of the future just happens to be the same one held by some VIPs over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Both have seen the future, and to the best I can tell, it looks like a hybrid of France and China.

Consider these remarks from the CEO of GE, the bluest of American blue chips.

“We should welcome the government as a catalyst for leadership and change,” says Immelt. “I believe in the endless possibilities of individual choice and private initiative. But this isn’t the first time that business and government have had to work together for national ends. We should work together again today, setting goals for productivity, job creation and exports.”>>>MORE

Because G.E. is so huge and such a big player in so many areas of the energy biz we have hundreds of posts on the behemoth. Here's the Google site search.

Here are some of our posts:

General Electric Pursues Pot of Government Stimulus Gold (GE)

As G.E. Struggles, a Rival Steps Up (GE; UTX)

"Can R&D Save General Electric?" and "GE's Risky Energy Research" (GE)

General Electric (GE) Generally Down

General Electric; Jeff Immelt: FAIL (GE)

GE executives are funnier than Jay Leno

Immelt’s Plans May Comfort Investors as Profit Falls (GE)

GE, Cleantech and Your Tax Dollars

Pt. I:: GE and the Enron Playbook (ENE; GE)

Pt II, GE and the Enron Playbook: "GE, BP Join Industry Demands for Carbon Regulations"

Pt. III, GE and the Enron Playbook: "Wind-Turbine Makers Press for Green Mandates"

GE: Government Enterprises

After 25 Years of Stalling, GE Starts Cleaning The Hudson

As I said, a lot of posts. Here are a couple of my favorite Immelt quotes:

...When I saw this, from Mr. Immelt (via Environmental Capital):

I believe we are going through more than a cycle. The global economy, and capitalism, will be “reset” in several important ways.

The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner […] I think this environment presents an opportunity of a lifetime....


It's never been a free market; it's never gonna be a free market. That's just the way it is....MORE