“Unlike the conglomerates, the GAFA do not threaten only competition, but democratic life itself”

VSIt is as if the Art Deco tower of Rockefeller Center planted in the heart of New York, which for a long time housed the headquarters of General Electric (GE), collapsed under its own weight. The weight of debt, misplaced investments, opaque financial activities … Parachuted at the head of the conglomerate at the end of 2018, Lawrence Culp did not feel heir to the prestigious legacy of Thomas Edison, founder in 1889 of a group that accompanied the lives of Americans in the XXe century. He announced, on November 9, its split into three companies focused on medical equipment, energy and aeronautics, the only one to keep the name of General Electric.

The fall of this American empire, which once weighed 1% of the national wealth, is not that of the activities nested in these companies which will be listed on Wall Street. They will continue to dominate their markets. GE’s reactors equip two-thirds of commercial aircraft, its “healthcare” products are a benchmark in hospitals and its turbines generate one-third of the world’s electricity. Mr. Culp cares a lot about his shareholders, but he also, he says, “The responsibility to act quickly to shape the future of aviation, advance precision medicine and guide the energy transition”.

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In fifteen years, GE has lost many crowns, including that of the world’s largest market capitalization, which has fallen from $ 594 billion to less than $ 110 billion (or 97 billion euros) today. In 2015, then CEO Jeffrey Immelt ended the era of his legendary predecessor Jack Welch by selling most of GE Capital, the financial services division that ended up weighing more heavily in results than its activities. historic industrial plants. In 2018, the group was excluded from the prestigious Dow Jones Industrial Index, where it appeared since its creation in 1896.

Long list of dismembered giants

The time has come for “spin-offs”. In the wake of GE, the American Johnson & Johnson, who is doing well, announced the separation of its consumer activities from the strategic part of vaccines, drugs and medical devices. The Japanese Toshiba is ill, and intends to get out of the woods by creating three entities (energy, semiconductors, memory chips). And a movement has just appeared within the oil majors and large electricians, pushed to split fossil fuels from CO-free electricity.2 to attract investors to this green production.

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