GE’s $39bn sale of real estate portfolio

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General Electric said it plans to sell the bulk of its $30bn (£20.56bn) real estate portfolio over the next two years as it returns to its industrial roots, and has set a share buyback plan of up to $50bn – the second-largest ever.

GE’s shares jumped about 7 per cent in pre-market trading yesterday after the company said there was potential to return more than $90bn to investors through 2018.

Blackstone Group and Wells Fargo are buying most of the assets of GE Capital Real Estate in a deal valued at about $23bn.

GE said it had letters of intent to sell an additional $4bn of commercial real estate to other buyers that it did not identify.

The total deal is the biggest in the commercial property market since Blackstone’s acquisition of office landlord Equity Office Properties Trust in 2007 for $39bn, including debt.

GE has been selling off its property investments globally as it focuses on improving earnings from sales of products such as jet engines, generators, electric grid gear and oil field equipment.

The company said yesterday it expected earnings from its aviation, power and water, and other industrial businesses to account for about 90 per cent of total earnings by 2018. The units made up just over half of GE’s profit in 2013.

GE said it would take after-tax charges of about $16bn related to the restructuring in the first quarter, of which about $12bn would be non-cash.

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