General Electric (GE - Get Report) has spent considerable time since the Great Recession reshaping its portfolio. When investors gather for the company's annual outlook meeting on Wednesday, they will be seeking an update on how all of the moving parts are falling into place.
The Boston-based conglomerate since 2008 has sold assets including NBC Universal, its homeland protection and security units and most recently its appliances business, raising more than $27 billion in the process. Those funds have been put to work building in other areas, with the company announcing nearly two dozen deals including its $3 billion purchase of Dresser, buying Lufkin Industries for $3.3 billion, Alstom for $9.5 billion and most recently a $25.2 billion deal to combine its oil and gas business with Baker Hughes (BHI) .
A good number of its deals have been in the energy sector, and investors on Wednesday will be eager to hear an update on how the integrations, particularly of Alstom and Baker Hughes, are progressing. They'll also want to know what GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt's appetite for further M&A is, and what direction the company might look to go next.
Increasingly GE is becoming an energy company with the sector, including power, renewables, oil and gas and grid-related work, now accounting for about 48% of GE's more than $120 billion in annual revenue. That total dwarfs aviation (21%), healthcare (15%) and the company's once burgeoning GE Capital unit, which now just generates about 8% of sales. By comparison GE Capital Services accounted for about 45% of the portfolio in 2001, well before GE initiated a series of sales of insurance and consumer and corporate finance businesses.
GE expects to generate about 90% of its earnings from industrial businesses by 2018, compared to just 43% in 2007. Services, which include software and support, is expected by Barclays to account for about 44% of industrial revenue but nearly 80% of operating profit, in part because it can generate margins upwards of six times higher than the margins on equipment sales.
Outside of energy GE has also been seeking growth in aerospace. Aviation still accounts for an oversized portion of profits, nearly 30% of the estimated $19 billion in operating profits forecasted for this year, and enjoys margins that are unrivaled by other units. The company was an aggressive buyer during the oil downturn, and could be tempted to go bargain shopping in aerospace in the years to come if the commercial plane up cycle comes to an end and sales slow in the years to come.
Weighing against additional M&A is Immelt's stated priority of returning capital to shareholders. GE raised its dividend by 4% last week, and has pledged to continue with an aggressive buyback plan. GE said it is on track to return $30 billion to shareholders in 2016, including $8 billion in dividends and $22 billion worth of share repurchases.
The dividend raise, which was smaller than some analysts had expected, marked the first increase since 2014.