With the enthusiasm around its industrial transformation stalled, General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is hoping for a boost from an oil megadeal that has already won the backing of the activist investor Nelson Peltz.
Chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt is merging the company’s oil and gas unit with Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) to create a behemoth capable of both weathering the slump in crude prices and capitalizing on a recovery. With $32 billion in sales and a more robust offering of products and services, the merged entity could position GE to compete more effectively as it deepens its bet on the energy markets.
While a number of Wall Street analysts had cut their outlooks for GE recently, the Baker Hughes transaction could be what’s needed to regain the momentum that sent shares to a 23 percent gain in 2015. “Even the bears got to like this deal,” Scott Davis, an analyst at Barclays plc, said in a note to clients.
For GE, the deal offers a chance to quiet skeptics questioning whether the Boston-based company can turn oil into a marquee business after wagering on the market with a series of acquisitions just before a historic slump. GE’s 2015 stock rally -- fueled by a major investment from Peltz’s Trian Fund Management LP and a corporate overhaul shedding finance assets in favor of equipment manufacturing -- has fizzled this year. With the oil unit weighing on earnings and overall growth slowing, the shares in the third quarter posted their worst performance in more than two years.
“This was the right way to create value for everybody,” Immelt said in a telephone interview. “It’s a way to create the synergies and the market opportunities today, to weather the cycle wherever it goes, as a stronger enterprise. It gives the Baker investors a substantial premium. It gives the GE investors the bet on our ability to execute on the synergies.”
Under the terms of the deal, GE would own 62.5 percent of the “new Baker Hughes,” which had $32 billion in combined 2015 sales and would have an estimated $24 billion in revenue in 2017, the companies said. The deal, set to close in 2017, will bring together GE offerings spanning subsea equipment, a digital operating system and manufacturing expertise with Baker Hughes, an oilfield servicer known for its drill bits.
GE made an aggressive appeal to investors, detailing the cost savings, free cash-flow benefits and profit implications of the Baker Hughes deal. The transaction will add 4 cents a share to GE’s earnings in 2018 and 8 cents by 2020, GE said.
In a significant show of support for GE, Trian said it’s on board with the deal. “Trian believes the combination has strong industrial logic, combining complementary businesses to create a best-in-class company in the oil and gas industry with significant competitive strengths,” the firm said in an e-mail. “Trian also applauds GE for structuring an attractive transaction that should crystallize a superior valuation multiple for GE’s oil and gas assets.”
While the earnings benefits are modest, the figures are based on oil prices rising to $60 a barrel in the coming years, a potentially “overly conservative” projection, Davis said.
The deal comes after GE cut its 2016 forecast for organic growth to unchanged to 2 percent from a previous range of as much as 4 percent. The move came as the company reported a 25 percent decline in the oil unit’s sales.
“The transaction structure provides GE shareholders earlier upside to an upturn in the oil and gas cycle with limited cash outlay,” Steven Winoker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said in a note. “We believe GE had to put together a deal like this at some point to remain viable in the oil and gas space.”