GE ran into trouble in 2008 for much the same reason as the investment banks did--its reliance on short-term funding from the capital markets. While GE was not forced to sell preferred stock to the U.S. government as many other big banks and financial companies were, it made extensive use of emergency government guarantees for short-term debt issuance during the crisis.
At the end of 2011, GE had $599 billion in total liabilities, $138 billion of which, or 23%, were short term borrowings. That compares to $194 billion out of $684 billion, or 28% at the end of 2008, according to Bloomberg data.In a report earlier this year, JPMorgan analyst Steve Tusa wrote that GE's reliance on funding itself in the capital markets is "a lingering long-term risk." However, he is encouraged by the fact that debt known as commercial paper--which matures in less than a year--now accounts for about 10% of GE's liabilities, where it had once accounted for as more than 50%. GE also will add $7.5 billion in deposits once it completes an acquisition of a bank from MetLife (MET) that was announced in December. Regulatory approval for the deal is still pending, however, some 10 months after its announcement. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York. Follow this writer on Twitter.