GE sees opportunity in Middle East

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Kai Ryssdal: General Electric has seen the future and it's not here in the United States. The global conglomerate is laying down roots in the Middle East -- More specifically, Abu Dhabi.

Today, GE announced an eight billion dollar joint venture with one of Abu Dhabi's government-controlled sovereign wealth funds and this deal's about more than just selling light bulbs and refrigerators, let me tell you.

Sam Eaton from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk has the story.


Sam Eaton: GE says the Middle East has something the U.S. doesn't: Oil and the vast wealth that goes along with it. Throw in the region's push to diversify its economy beyond oil and you have one of the world's hottest tickets for major investments in things like infrastructure, industry and health care -- and GE doesn't want to be stuck on the sidelines.

Nabil Habayeb is the company's CEO for the Middle East and Africa.

Nabil Habayeb: We're an infrastructure company. We do oil and gas, power and water. We're into the aviation business. We're into the transportation business. We're in the health care business. You know, it's a great match.

And one that's likely to swell beyond the initial $8 billion investment. Peter Sorrentino with Huntington Asset Management says today's deal is part of a much a larger strategy for GE.

Peter Sorrentino: They're laying the groundwork for where their earnings are going to come from five and ten years from now.

The main source of those earnings will be long-term service contracts on GE-built power plants and infrastructure, but it's the company's $50 million investment in a clean energy tech center outside of Abu Dhabi that caught the attention of Dan Esty with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. He says Abu Dhabi has something else the U.S. doesn't: The political will to become the new global hub for clean energy technology.

Dan Esty: It may well be that the money from our country flows outside our country to clusters of clean tech development that could be in places like Abu Dhabi.

...Trading one form of energy dependence for another.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

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