General Electric (GE) - Get General Electric Company (GE) Report jumped in premarket trading Tuesday after closing a stock swap with former credit-card unit Synchrony that will let the iconic manufacturer reclaim about $20.4 billion of its shares, reducing its float by nearly 7%.
GE, which had spun Synchrony (SYF) - Get Synchrony Financial Report off last year, still holds 85% of its stock. Shedding that stake is a key piece of CEO Jeffrey Immelt's plan to exit most of the GE Capital lending business while refocusing on the company's manufacturing operations, which range from health care equipment to locomotives. So far this year, GE has signed agreements to sell $160 billion of GE Capital's loan portfolio.
In the Synchrony swap, which offers GE investors $107.50 of the lender's shares for each $100 of GE stock they proffer, holders ultimately tendered 3.2 times as much stock as GE would repurchase, the company said in a in a statement. Synchrony, the largest private-label credit card distributor in the U.S., was created during the Great Depression as a credit provider for cash-strapped GE appliance customers.
"The completion of the Synchrony Financial exchange is an important part of GE's transformation into a simpler, more focused company," GE Capital chief Keith Sherin said in a statement. "We're excited to watch Synchrony continue to grow and succeed on its own."
GE locked in an exchange rate of 1.0505 Synchrony shares for each share of GE on Friday. On that basis, only about 31% of shares tendered, or about 671 million out of more than 2 billion, will be exchanged, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said in an SEC filing. The remainder will be returned to their owners.
Completing the swap puts GE "on track to return more than $90 billion to investors" over the next three years, the company said.
Immelt plans to draw 90% of the company's income from manufacturing operations by 2018. The company expects that the dramatic shrinking of its lending business will free it from strict federal limits on how it invests capital, rules that were established as regulators worked to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.
GE Capital had dragged on the parent company's stock price since that period, when the lender's funding crunch cost GE its top credit ratings with both Standard & Poor's and Moody's and forced Immelt to cut the company's dividend.
GE, which closed at $30.36 on Monday, rose nearly 2% before the start of regular trading in New York on Tuesday. Synchrony, which closed at $30.29, rose about 1%.
Advisers and managers in the the deal included Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.