General Electric (GE) shares jumped Wednesday following a report the troubled industrial group has filed confidential plans to float its healthcare unit as it seeks to raise enough cash to maintain both its investment grade credit rating and its current dividend.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that GE working with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley on a deal that could created one of the world's biggest listed heathcare companies with an enterprise value of around $60 billion.
GE shares rose 7.1% on Wednesday to $7.79.
Earlier this year, ousted CEO John Flannery said GE would spin off both its healthcare division and sell its stake in oil services group Baker Hughes (BHGE) as part of a strategic shift towards its power, aviation and renewable-energy businesses and create "a simpler, stronger, leading high-tech Industrial company".
New boss Larry Culp, however, who took over from Flannery on October 1, said that "nothing was off the table" in terms of the group's ongoing restructuring.
The bombshell announcement of Flannery's departure, which included a warning that weakness in its GE Power business will make it miss 2018 free cash flow and earnings guidance as it takes a $23 billion goodwill hit to the struggling division, raised questions over the fate of the group's long-standing dividend.
GE's credit rating sits at Baa1 at Moody's Investors Service, and BBB+ at Standard & Poor's and Fitch, just a few steps above "junk" status following two notch downgrades by each of the three ratings companies in October and November.
"The weaker-than-expected performance at Power is not only attributable to a considerable drop in market demand and ensuing heightened competition, but also to GE's misjudgment of financial prospects and operational missteps," Moody's said at the time. "As a result, GE's free cash flow (after dividends) will likely be very weak in 2018, even with good performance at GE Aviation and GE Healthcare."
GE responded on October 30 by slashing its quarterly dividend to a penny a share -- from 12 cents a share -- in a move it said would retain about $3.9 billion of cash per year compared to the prior payout level. Culp also said at the time that there were "no plans for an equity raise."