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The rise, fall and redemption of GE Capital

GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, photographed in February 2012.

General Electric’s quarterly earnings are due out this morning. When you hear GE, you might think light bulbs, jet engines, or medical equipment. But investors are keeping a close eye on the rise, fall, and redemption of the other part of GE.

GE has a bit of a split personality. It’s part manufacturing company. But it also has a large financial service business called GE Capital Corp. Financial subsidiaries usually help customers buy the goods a company makes. But GE Capital went way beyond that.

“They were acting like a bank,” says Lawrence White of NYU’s Stern School of Business.

GE Capital was a huge bank, making credit card loans and getting deep into commercial real estate. Daniel Holland is an analyst with Morningstar. He says GE Capital even had some residential mortgages in France and Australia.

So a lot of businesses where you kinda scratch your head and say well, does GE really have an advantage in terms of doing underwriting in those markets?” he says.

Holland says GE’s stock plunged during the financial crisis, because investors were worried about its finance arm. The company’s been trying to size-down GE Capital and reduce risk, which appears to be paying off. GE Capital expects to provide about six billion dollars in dividends to the parent company for 2012.

 

 

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