General Electric (NYSE: GE) is a diversified holding company and manufacturer of various industrial goods and equipment. It is headquartered in Fairfield, Conn., and was founded in 1892. General Electric is currently led by Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who follows the enormously popular 1980-2001 tenure of former CEO Jack Welch.
Life on Earth is thought to have coalesced out of a primordial soup of amino acids. Replace "amino acids" with "assorted small companies swallowed by bigger ones," and the same goes for General Electric. In 1892, the Edison General Electric Company -- founded by noted inventor and occasional elephant electrocutor (no, really!) Thomas Edison -- merged with its arch rival, the Thomson-Houston Company. In 1900, the company founded the nation's first dedicated research and development laboratory in a horse barn in the back yard of its chief consulting engineer's house. From that humble and probably none too sweet-smelling beginning, GE was off to the races.
In the decades that followed, GE built on Edison's invention of the electric light with the ductile tungsten filament that incandescent bulbs still use today; the fluorescent and halogen bulbs; and the solid state laser. It invented the magnetron, now used to power microwave ovens, and developed the first reproducible way to make industrial diamonds. Its offerings also helped to popularize both home appliances and jet aviation, and it was one of the earliest commercial TV broadcasters.
GE ranked 12th on Fortune's 2008 Global 500 list of the world's largest companies, with more than $176 billion in annual sales and more than $22 billion in annual profits.
Brands and Divisions
In 2008, GE announced plans to auction off its popular and widely used line of home appliances. In late 2009, it also began the process of selling a majority stake of its NBC Universal television and movie operations to Comcast. Today, newly bereft of Law & Order and Bob Costas's immaculate hair, GE maintains three primary divisions:
- Technology Infrastructure includes GE's transportation and medical products, such as locomotives, jet engines, and medical imaging machines. GE is the leading manufacturer of diesel electric locomotives in competition with the EMD Division of General Motors, sold in 2005, to Greenbriar Equity Group LLC and Berkshire Partners LLC and now called Electro-Motive Diesel, Incorporated, later sold to Caterpillar.
- Energy Infrastructure includes equipment for power and gas infrastructure, power generation, and water purification and processing. GE is the leading US manufacturer of wind turbines for the wind energy business. GE became a leader in water technology by the acquisition of Betz-Dearborn from Hercules.
- GE Capital encompasses the company's financing arm, providing credit for the purchase of GE products as diverse as aircraft and home appliances.
In 2013, General Electric announced that it was selling its solar panels business to First Solar. The deal included the sale of cadmium telluride thin film technology, which First Solar will use in its plants. GE had previously announced construction of a $300MM plant to make solar panels in Aurora, CO. That investment is now on hold.
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