November 13, 2018 / 12:46 PM / in a month

GE speeds plan to raise $4 billion cash, lifts sagging shares

NEW YORK/HOUSTON (Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) plans to raise $4 billion in needed cash by year end, the company said on Tuesday, speeding its planned sale of a stake in oilfield services unit Baker Hughes (BHGE.N).

The General Electric logo is pictured on the General Electric offshore wind turbine plant in Montoir-de-Bretagne, near Saint-Nazaire, western France, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Files

The news boosted GE shares more than 4 percent after days of steep declines but did little to relieve pressure on its bonds. (tmsnrt.rs/2PnISH3)

Before the announcement, prices on a number of its bonds had fallen far below par value, after new Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp noted the “urgency” of shoring up the conglomerate’s weak finances.

Once a symbol of American business power and management prowess, GE has faltered badly. Problems with its finance arm caused heavy losses during the 2008 financial crisis and forced it to take a Warren Buffett bailout; since then it has it been trying to rebuild its industrial businesses.

It has had three CEOs since July 2017 and its stock has fallen more than 80 percent since 2000.

GE said it will sell up to 101.2 million Baker Hughes shares on the open market and that Baker Hughes will buy 65 million of its own shares from GE, using a $1.5 billion repurchase arsenal Baker Huges already has authorized. Based on Tuesday’s share price, the sale would raise about $4 billion.

After the sale, GE will own about 50.4 percent of Baker Hughes, according to analysts. The trades speed up the plan former GE CEO John Flannery laid out in June to sell all of the 62.5 percent Baker Hughes stake over two to three years. GE has a six-month lock up on its remaining stake in the oilfield company and expects sell the remainder over the next several years.

The two companies also outlined licensing deals that allow Baker Hughes to sell and use GE’s turbine and digital technology as the two business split apart.

“The divorce is obviously final, but at the end of the day they have to share assets and liabilities,” said Chirag Rathi, consulting director for Frost & Sullivan. “Baker Hughes essentially gets access to digital solutions and turbines. It’s not a clean-cut divorce. There will be some overlap of businesses.”

GE shares rose 4.5 percent to $8.35. Baker Hughes was up 1.6 percent to $24.01.

The cost to insure GE debt rose hit a fresh six-year high on Tuesday, with the bid spread and upfront price on the five-year credit default swap at 206.7 basis points and 4.67 percent respectively. GE5YUSAX=R GE5YUSAX=MG

GE’s bond prices were close to multi-year lows, after falling precipitously on Friday. The $1.3 billion bond coming due in January 2023 was down 150 basis points from its high point on Friday, now trading around 93 cents on the dollar. 36962G6S8=

Graphic: GE bonds under pressure (tmsnrt.rs/2PnISH3)

GE bought Houston-based Baker Hughes in July 2017 and agreed to maintain its 62.5 percent stake until the middle of next year. GE has since focused on debt and focus on its core businesses of jet engines, power plants and renewable energy.

“The agreements announced today accelerate that plan in a manner that mutually benefits both companies and their shareholders,” Culp said in a statement.

Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said on Tuesday the deal provides “clarity for our customers, employees and shareholders.” The sale comes as improving oil markets have helped Baker Hughes post a third-quarter adjusted net profit. The oil services firm also said it was optimistic about the near future with oil production in North America climbing to record levels.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York, John Benny in Bengaluru, Liz Hampton in Houston and Kate Duguid in New York; editing by David Gregorio

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