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General Electric Company (GE) Agrees to Sell European Private Equity Unit to Sumitomo

Continuing to offload its financial assets at a whirlwind pace, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) announced the sale of its European private-equity business to Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. for $2.2 billion. Subject to customary closing conditions, the deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

This latest divestment in GE’s sweeping overhaul of its finance arm pushes its asset sales past the $23 billion mark. The transaction follows GE’s agreement to sell the bulk of its vehicle fleet financing businesses to Canada’s Element Financial Corp. for $6.9 billion. With these transactions, GE is accelerating its $200 billion plan to shed its financial assets as it refocuses on its core manufacturing business that makes heavy-duty products such as gas turbines, jet engines and medical scanners.

The offloaded GE unit finances buyouts and other transactions for private-equity firms in Europe. Per the deal, GE will keep its $1 billion investment in the European Senior Secured Loan Programme and European Loan Programme, the company said.

A large portion of the operations that have yet to be divested form a part of GE’s North American commercial lending and leasing portfolio. GE intends to hang on to the financing “verticals” that relate to GE’s industrial businesses.

GE reiterated its goal to close deals worth $100 billion in assets this year. To date, the conglomerate has disclosed buyers for $68 billion in assets.

The asset sale is part of the long-term strategy of General Electric to divest its various non-core operations in order to focus more on its industrial businesses. GE decided to trim down GE Capital, the parent unit of its real estate business, after the division’s lack of access to credit during the 2008 financial crisis endangered the stability of the parent company.

Since it revealed its milestone intentions to sell off chunks of GE Capital in April, the industry bellwether has been busy offloading holdings, including several overseas bank stakes, while at the same time attempting to expand its industrial holdings. GE Capital, which flourished in the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, still had almost $500 billion in assets in April.

GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt recently asserted that the low interest rates currently prevalent in the economy, coupled with abundant liquidity in the corporate market present a great climate for asset sell-off, and the conglomerate is exploiting a “window of opportunity” to offload assets while these conditions persist.

GE presently holds a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

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