CINCINNATI (TDB) -- General Electric Co. traces its roots back to Thomas Edison, and the conglomorate is headed by another Ohio boy, CEO Jeff Immelt, who grew up in Cincinnati. GE's aircraft engine division is alongside I-75 in the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale, and the factory complex remains one of the state's largest employers and an a icon of Ohio's once-unmatched manufacturing might. But GE's stock is near 4 1/2-year lows, and a Fifth Third Bank money manager is wondering publicly if it is time for the corporate giant to start selling off big hunks of its holdings to raise the share price for investors. That should be news in Cincinnati -- home of both the bank and one of GE's largest divisions, along with thousands of GE investors and employees. Still, the local money manager's concern this week seems to have escaped notice by the local media.
Peter Klein, a senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management, had this to say:
"Having a more focused organization probably would benefit that organization (GE). Whether it was focused on media or focused on financials or focused on manufacturing . . . management at least ought to entertain that approach that says, 'Let's separate them and see what would happen."
GE owns NBC Universal, but also makes railroad locomotives, appliances, power plant turbines and jet engines. Some say it is hard to see how owning Meet The Press (and finding a replacement for Tim Russert) and producing TV show mixes with manufacturing engines for Boeing airliners. Fifth Third's Klein was quoted in this Reuters business news story June 16 that pointedly raised the issue of whether it is time for GE make changes and shed some of its holdings.
[UPDATE: Fifth Third lost over 27% of its share value today. Asked why, some analysts were quipping: "Because it's open." GE fell 2.25%.]