General Electric Company (GE), one of the best known companies in the world but a stock market laggard, now has a major investor who could accelerate efforts to turn the company around.
Nelson Peltz, who is pushing to break up PepsiCo’s drinks and snacks businesses, and has been involved in deals in Snapple, Wendy’s and Kraft, said he bought $2.5 billion worth of GE shares -- about 1 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Peltz made the investment through his Trian Fund Management LP, which now becomes one of the top 10 shareholders in GE with the fund's biggest investment ever. GE is the third largest company to be targeted by an activist investor, following Apple and Microsoft, according to the Journal.
In a document to be released Monday but reportedly obtained by the Journal, Peltz calls for cost cuts, selling more of GE’s financial services units and borrowing $20 billion to buy back shares.
According to the Journal, Trian believes the moves can take the stock from the mid 20s to the low 40s. GE stock, which is currently trading at about $25.5, is down more than a third since September 2001, when CEO Jeffrey Immelt took over from the legendary Jack Welch, The S&P 500 is up about 80 percent in the same period. In the document, Peltz reportedly refers to this as GE’s “lost decade.”
Still, Immelt’s job may be safe. Peltz is not known for kicking out management, preferring to work with and nudge them into deals. The Journal says the two are friends who say they are in broad agreement on how to do a “pivot” -- Immelt’s term for getting out of consumer products and services to focus on higher-margin technology businesses.
Peltz reportedly called Immelt to congratulate him in April after the CEO announced his plan to sell most of the company’s financial business, and Immelt said he would welcome the hedge fund manager as a stockholder.
“It’s not something to break up,” the Journal quoted Peltz as saying at a press conference, while his partner Ed Garden said: “This is the best defensive growth stock in the market.”