GE Keeping Faith in Baker Hughes Merger

GE had been exploring "exit options" but CFO Jamie Miller says it now sees "a lot of upside" for Baker Hughes.
Matthew HellerFebruary 23, 2018

The pressure on Baker Hughes shares appears to have lifted after General Electric said it would not shed its majority stake in the oilfield services company before the expiration of a two-year lockup period in 2019.

Baker Hughes’ future had been clouded by GE chief executive John Flannery’s announcement in November that he had asked a board committee to evaluate “our exit options on Baker Hughes.” He cited “the cyclicality and the commodity nature” of the oilfield services business.

The possibility of a sale came as a surprise, since GE had only completed the acquisition of 63% of Baker Hughes in July, merging it with its own oil and gas equipment and services operations to create the world’s second-largest oilfield service provider by revenue.

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Since becoming CEO in August, Flannery has pledged to shed at least $20 billion in assets as part of a restructuring of GE. But CFO Jamie Miller indicated earlier this week that the company was feeling more positive about Baker Hughes.

“Given today’s valuation levels, we see a lot of upside there,” she said at a Barclay’s conference in Miami. “We like the macro trends. At this point in time, we have no intent to change anything or execute prior to the expiration” of the lockup period.

Baker Hughes management “is doing a very nice job executing in the portfolio and we have a lot of confidence in them,” she said.

Baker Hughes shares climbed 4.8% to $28.04 in trading Thursday after rising about 1.2% on Wednesday. They had fallen by more than 30% since the close of the GE merger and disappointing fourth-quarter results, and lowered guidance prompted analysts to lower profit targets for the year.

“The uncertainty had been pressuring the shares,” James West, senior managing director and partner at investment bank Evercore ISI, told Reuters.

As CNN Money reports, Flannery has also “signaled that GE is even exploring an outright breakup of a company that was once America’s most successful conglomerate. Despite years of shrinking itself, GE still makes everything from jet engines and power plants to MRI machines.”