GE offers a peek into its finance unit

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Kai Ryssdal: In other Fed news, no news on interest rates that the Fed controls. But as we suggested yesterday, Mr. Bernanke and the gang are going to buy up billions in long-term Treasury notes as a way to keep other interest rates low.

Desperate economic times call for desperate corporate measures. So General Electric is going to let it all hang out. GE Capital -- that is GE's financing unit -- was a huge moneymaker for the company as recently as a couple of years ago. Not so anymore in light of the meltdown. Tomorrow GE Capital's going to open its books as a way, it hopes, to build up some investor confidence. From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte has more.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Bernie McGinn runs McGinn Investment Management in Virginia. He has more than 5 percent of his holdings in GE. So what's he expecting from tomorrow?

BERNIE MCGINN: Well, I think what you want to find out from opening the books is that you don't have any, uh, any time bombs in there.

Meaning investments that could blow up in people's faces unexpectedly. In this case, mortgage-backed securities or Eastern European loans. McGinn says giving investors a peek at GE Capital's holdings is a good idea.

MCGINN: I think to the extent that they can open the, open the door and let people look in. I would very much assume they wouldn't do it unless they thought that the outcome would be positive.

He says it can't hurt. But financial analyst Peter Cohan disagrees.

PETER COHAN: The big risk that they run is that they open up Pandora's Box, and they can't close it.

Cohan says investors at the meeting will have lots of questions. And GE Capital's chief financial officer had better be prepared to answer anything that might come up, or else.

Cohan: There's a real danger that he exposes some things about GE Capital that make people worry there are bigger problems than they had thought before.

And that's the last thing the company wants. Cohan says that's unlikely to happen provided executives have done their homework. But if one tricky question leads to another the meeting could end up stoking investors' fears rather than their confidence.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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