GE Claims Financial Business Now Small Enough to Fail

Paul Ausick

After agreeing to sell it its investment management business to State Street Corp. (NYSE: STT), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) now wants GE Capital, its financial arm and the parent of the investment management business, to be removed from the Federal Reserve’s list of systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), to which it was added in July 2013.

Designation as a non-bank SIFI allowed Fed staff to supervise GE Capital’s finances and to require that in meet certain leverage requirements. GE’s decision to get out of the financial services business is at least partly due to these requirements.

In a Thursday filing with the Fed, GE reported that it had cut the assets of its financial business by more than half, sold off or closed most of its U.S. operations, and cut its links to the financial system. According to The Wall Street Journal, GE said its financing business is “smaller, simpler and less interconnected with the U.S. financial system” and poses no “conceivable threat to U.S. financial stability.”

On Wednesday, MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) was removed from the Fed’s list of non-bank SIFIs, leading to speculation that AIG and Prudential may also seek to be removed from the list. The impact on MetLife could be significant, releasing capital for increased dividends and buybacks, and, according to a report at Bloomberg, able to price its insurance products more competitively.

The benefits to GE are similar, freeing up cash now held in reserve against another financial catastrophe in the global financial system. The company has shed about $168 billion of its nearly $550 billion in financial assets and is aiming to dispose of a total $200 billion in assets. The company has about $50 billion in finance assets remaining in the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal.

GE’s stock rose about 0.6% Thursday morning to a new 52-week high of $32.05. The 52-week low is $19.37.