Baker Hughes Buys Into Abu Dhabi While GE Sells Off Energy Portfolio

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When a company struggles the way General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has over the past couple of years, the moves a company makes may seem contradictory. Two Monday morning announcements involving GE may make it seem like the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

Baker Hughes, a GE Company (NYSE: BHGE) and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s drilling arm have signed a strategic partnership agreement to support the growth of ADNOC Drilling as a fully integrated and well construction provider. Baker Hughes has taken a 5% stake ($550 million) in ADNOC Drilling, an investment that now values the Abu Dhabi firm at about $11 billion.

At practically the same time, GE has agreed to sell a portfolio of energy investments to Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE: APO) for approximately $1 billion. The portfolio includes approximately 20 investments in renewable energy, contracted natural gas-fired generation and midstream energy infrastructure assets, primarily located in the United States. Most of the assets come from GE Capital’s energy financial services unit.

Speaking about the sale to Apollo, GE Capital president Alec Burger said:

The sale of this Equity Portfolio reflects ongoing progress executing GE Capital’s strategy, and enables us to continue to deliver on our commitments and provide value to GE.

That value comes in the form of cash. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

The agreement with ADNOC serves a different purpose. Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said:

The transaction significantly increases our activity in the region and demonstrates our unique ability to create value for our customers and shareholders through innovative commercial arrangements, partnerships and leading technology solutions.

The message here is that GE is dressing up Baker Hughes, the oilfield services firm GE acquired in July of last year. GE paid $7.4 billion and 37.5% of Baker Hughes to shareholders of the prior company. Within months, GE said it would sell Baker Hughes. Last November, then-new CEO John Flannery said there would be no immediate sale.

It’s not that GE didn’t need the cash, but the agreement at the time of the acquisition contained a two-year lock-up period during which GE could not sell Baker Hughes. That period ends next year.

Baker Hughes stock trades well below its level when the GE acquisition was announced in October of 2016 and the company’s market cap is right around $35 billion. The ADNOC deal is an inexpensive way to create a potential revenue stream that makes Baker Hughes more attractive to potential buyers. Baker Hughes gets one seat on ADNOC Drilling’s board and, according to the announcement, ADNOC Drilling expects to generate stable annual dividends with an estimated long-term annual yield of around 7% for both shareholders.

Schlumberger has a market cap of more than $86 billion and is far and away the largest oilfield services firm. Halliburton edges out Baker Hughes for second place with a market of around $37 billion. Halliburton in 2014 offered to pay $35 billion to buy Baker Hughes, but the deal fell through and GE swooped in. Whether Halliburton will try again is anyone’s guess, but potential buyers are not exactly thick on the ground.

Baker Hughes stock traded down about 1.2% just before noon Monday, at $31.51 in a 52-week range of $25.53 to $37.76. The price target on the stock is $37.70.