GE Stock Surges on News of Biopharma Sale

The $21 billion sale to Danaher is a "pivotal milestone" in GE's plan to reduce debt and strengthen its balance sheet, CEO Larry Culp says.
Matthew HellerFebruary 25, 2019

General Electric said Monday it had agreed to sell its biopharmaceutical business to Danaher for $21.4 billion as new CEO Larry Culp made his first major move to turn around the ailing conglomerate.

The biopharma unit is part of GE Life Sciences, which also includes medical devices and pharmaceuticals diagnostics. It makes instruments and software that support the research and development of drugs, accounting for 15% of GE’s healthcare business revenue in 2018.

GE had been considering a spinoff of the entire healthcare business but the sale of the biopharma unit gives it an opportunity to pare down debt. Danaher will pay $21 billion in cash and assume certain GE pension liabilities.

“Today’s transaction is a pivotal milestone,” Culp, who took over the helm at GE from John Flannery in October, said in a news release. “It demonstrates that we are executing on our strategy by taking thoughtful and deliberate action to reduce leverage and strengthen our balance sheet.”

On news of the deal, GE shares jumped 8% to $11.01 in trading Monday.

“[Culp] has earned his stripes,” William Blair & Co analyst Nicholas Heymann said, noting that “Danaher is paying GE is two times our expectations. This is a home run. It really turns the page now for GE to address liquidity concerns.”

Culp was formerly CEO of Danaher, where he was instrumental in transforming the company.

As Reuters reports, the deal “will provide GE with a much-needed cash infusion as [it] struggles to pay off” more than $100 billion in debt amid stagnating growth. The company has been divesting non-core businesses as it seeks to return to its industrial roots.

“IPO of healthcare was Plan A — but we got lots of inbound calls about this business and this [sale] is clearly a superior path,” Culp told CNBC.

The deal represents the largest purchase ever for Danaher, which, under Culp, built its Life Sciences business into a major asset now worth $6.5 billion. “We expect GE BioPharma to advance our growth and innovation strategy in an important and highly attractive life science market,” Danaher CEO Thomas Joyce said.