President Barack Obama tours the General Electric Plant with GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt (L) January 21, 2011 in Schenectady, New York.
President Barack Obama tours the General Electric Plant with GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt (L) January 21, 2011 in Schenectady, New York. - 
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General Electric spent decades moving from the world of making stuff into the world of lending money. But since 2008 -- when financial services led the world economy off a cliff -- the company has shifted to making more stuff and fewer loans.

When the company reports its third-quarter earnings today, GE is unlikely to report a big jump in profits, and that sounds just fine to Nicholas Heymann, who watches big infrastructure companies for investment bank William Blair & Company.

Heymann says GE is ramping up for a project involving a lot of potential customers. "There's a tremendous amount of focus today on helping bring four and a half billion people into the twenty-first century," he says. "And you know, that means providing them with electricity and transportation and clean water and health care."

All of which are big businesses for GE. And growing.

Tim Ghriskey, a partner in the Solaris Group, points to energy extraction as an example. "That’s a business that they’ve built over just the last several years," he says. "And they’ve invested $10 billion buying up companies."

Griskhey thinks GE has done a fine job consolidating those companies. With the fracking boom getting set to go world-wide, he thinks that’s good news for GE.

"There are going to be a lot of oppportunities for companies producing equipment for the extraction of energy out of our Earth," he says.

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Follow Dan Weissmann at @danweissmann