General Electric is exploring a sale of the electrical engineering business which it acquired for $3.2 billion in 2011, as the U.S. industrial conglomerate continues to shed unwanted assets, according to four people familiar with the matter.
John Flannery, who took over as GE’s chief executive last summer, indicated to analysts and investors for the first time earlier this year that he was open to breaking up the company, and said that a spinoff of any of its units, which include power, healthcare and aviation, was possible.
GE acquired Converteam, an electrical engineering company, in 2011 to boost its presence in that sector. At the time, energy was GE’s most profitable business, accounting for a quarter of the company’s revenue. Since then demand for its products have fallen sharply, and profit at the division plunged 45 percent last year.
Converteam, which in 2012 was rebranded GE Power Conversion, is losing money, and is expected to fetch less than what GE paid for it, the sources said this week. GE is reviewing ways to shed the unit before launching a sale process, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the deliberations are confidential.
A GE spokeswoman declined to comment.
GE’s power conversion business makes electrical motors and positioning systems for oil rigs, bulk transport ships and aircraft carriers, as well as power converters for solar farms, mines and mills. GE acquired Converteam from a private equity consortium that included Barclays Private Equity and LBO France.
GE’s stock has lost half its value in the last 12 months, and Flannery is under pressure from investors, including activist hedge fund Trian Fund Management LP which sits on its board of directors, to turn the business around.
The divestiture would be the latest in a string of asset sales GE is exploring. Reuters reported in February that GE was considering divesting its industrial gas engine business, which includes the Jenbacher and Waukesha engines.
Since last year, GE has also been seeking to hive off other divisions, including its railway locomotives business, consumer lightbulbs manufacturing assets and healthcare information technology business.
GE views a spin-off of its railway locomotive unit as ore likely than a sale, given the tax hit from an outright sale, according to the sources.
Flannery said in October that GE would sell at least $20 billion in operations to shore up its financial performance.