Not that long ago, General Electric was seen as the very model of corporate success, the American capitalist system in action under a sprawling umbrella of synergized interests.
As the company limps into its investor day presentation Monday, it has gone from a paradigm of success to a morass of excess. Where GE once was held as a beacon of how a multinational conglomerate is supposed to function, it now faces an uncertain future and a bevy of questions from investors and analysts.
The crisis is not quite existential, but conditions are critical. Company executives must convince their constituency that there is a viable path forward.
“That will be up to GE,” said Eric Ause, who covers GE for Fitch Ratings. “How they do it will be up to GE’s management team. They’ve got a new CEO and a new CFO, and they’ve been making some changes to the board. That will all play into their long-term decisions, what the mix of their business should be and how they get there.”
Investors have shown little confidence that even with the management shake-up, GE has a clear direction forward. The company has pledged to trim the parts of the operation that don’t work, like GE Capital and the industrial solutions business, and focus on the future with core industrial businesses and GE Digital.
The market, though, has been hard to please.
GE shares have tumbled 37 percent in 2017 and are less than half where they stood when Jeffrey Immelt took over as CEO in September 2001. Immelt left the company in October, leaving behind a bevy of questions that likely will be addressed at Monday’s event.
The shares traded higher by more than 2 percent on Friday as it appeared the company had already begun taking some of the hard steps it will unveil Monday by reportedly cutting staff in its GE Digital division.