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GE seeks sale of security unit; could fetch $2 Billion

Published on 27 Aug, 2009

General Electric Co. is seeking to sell its security unit
GE Security forecast an increase in sales, driven by demand in emerging markets

General Electric Co. is seeking to sell its security unit, which builds surveillance cameras and alarms, and may fetch about $2 billion, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

GE hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to find a buyer for most of GE Security, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are confidential. Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE asked potential buyers to submit preliminary bids about a month ago, the people said.

Possible acquirers include Tyco International Ltd. and United Technologies Corp., which also sell security equipment, the people said. GE may sell the unit in parts if it can't find a buyer for the whole business, one of the people said.

"The security industry is extremely fragmented, and that is clearly different from GE's typical vision of being in a strong market-leadership position," said Joel Levington, director of corporate credit for Hyperion Brookfield Asset Management Inc. in New York.

Michelle May, a GE spokeswoman, declined to comment, as did Paul Fitzhenry of Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based Tyco; John Moran at United Technologies, based in Hartford, Connecticut, and JPMorgan's Brian Marchiony.

GE fell 21 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $14.09 at 3:39 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading after earlier dropping as much as 2 percent. The shares declined 12 percent this year through yesterday.

GE may sell the unit in parts if it can't find a buyer for the whole business

Built with acquisitions

GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt built the security division through acquisitions starting in 2002. GE Security projected $3 billion in sales by 2011, up from about $1.8 billion in 2007, Dean Seavers, the unit's chief executive officer, said in an interview in September 2008.

Immelt has been putting greater emphasis on non-finance businesses while shrinking the GE Capital arm this year. Investors concerned that the finance unit may encounter losses have helped erode GE's market value by half in a year.

Since 2003, Immelt has gotten rid of more than $50 billion in businesses and acquired more than $100 billion, eliminating divisions like plastics and adding to health care. Before the credit crisis began in 2007, he sold the U.S. subprime-mortgage business, which catered to the least-creditworthy borrowers. Early in his tenure, he shed all of GE's insurance divisions.

Emerging-market demand

GE Security forecast an increase in sales, driven by demand in emerging markets and new offerings that bundle video surveillance, alarms and fire systems, the unit's top executive said in September. About 30 percent of the division's revenue comes from outside of North America, Seavers said. That should rise to about 50 percent by 2011, led by faster-growing regions such as the Middle East and India.

About 30 percent of the division's revenue comes from outside of North America but is predicted to rise to 50 percent by 2011

GE agreed to sell an 81 percent stake in a part of its security division, the Homeland Protection unit that sells technology for airports, to Paris-based Safran SA for $580 million in April.

It is difficult to comment on valuation of the unit without knowing its profitability, Levington said. One of the main businesses acquired to build the group was Edwards Systems Technology, purchased for about $1.4 billion from SPX Corp. in 2005. If the whole unit sells for $2 billion, GE may need to take an impairment to goodwill if it hasn't written down the assets already, he said.

GE, the world's biggest maker of power-plant turbines, had sales of about $183 billion in 2008.


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