What GE Might Fetch for Its Venture Capital Arm

Jon C. Ogg

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is still looking for ways to raise capital from inside the company. One possible means of raising cash may come from its years’ worth of playing venture capitalist and private equity manager.

The conglomerate reportedly has been shopping its stakes in outside companies owned by GE Ventures. This is said to include more than 100 startups and outside entities. The two big questions that investors will have are going to be very difficult to quantify: What’s the entire combined unit worth? And what may GE be giving up in future value by seeking an offload today?

GE Ventures invests in many sectors that are said to drive an impact for GE’s partners, customers and the company itself. Many of the companies in the portfolio are within health care and life sciences, as well as energy, mobility, manufacturing, technology and so on. The full portfolio list is here.

One reason for a continued asset sale is that GE still has over $100 billion in debt, and the company has pledged to reduce its leverage ratios at a time that its power unit is under pressure and when the prized jet engines business is facing pressure from external issues at Boeing and a more firm competitive field if the UTC-Raytheon merger goes through. This means that anything deemed to be a noncore asset or unit is up for grabs.

According to CNBC, GE has been shopping its venture arm for several months and is in discussions with other venture firms, as well as groups of limited partners who invest in those funds.

Crunchbase also identified that the total participatory venture investment amount from GE Ventures tallies up to nearly $3.5 billion and that nearly half of its investments were in the seed-stage and early-stage investments.

That does not imply that the total value would be its investment value, because it could be worth substantially more or substantially less to different buyers. Some of the companies may now have stakes that are effectively impossible to monetize.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 when the consolidation occurred that GE was targeting a $150 million annual commitment for its ventures unit.

At this stage, it’s anyone’s guess what GE might fetch for the ventures group. The company may not have the time and luxury of selling off the company’s stakes piecemeal, but maybe it should consider breaking the venture groups up into sectors to help better maximize the value and process.

GE’s shares were down 1.1% at $10.22 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $6.40 to $13.88. The market cap is now just $89 billion.