GE to restructure power division amid expanded SEC, DOJ probe
General Electric will restructure its struggling power business amid an expanded federal probe into its accounting practices, the company announced Tuesday.
GE took a $22 billion financial writedown on its power division last quarter, executives said on an earnings call, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department (DOJ) have expanded their investigation of the company to include the charge.
The company will reorganize GE Power into two units — one for its natural gas business and another for its other assets, including coal, nuclear and grid services.
The expanded SEC and DOJ probe is just the latest headache for GE's struggling power business, along with a $22 billion goodwill impairment charge the company swallowed last quarter.
Companies take impairment charges when the market value of a set of assets is below the price paid to acquire them and expected future cash flows are lower than originally anticipated. In this case it represents the deterioration of a string of investments GE made to expand its power business in recent years.
"The SEC expanded the scope of its ongoing investigation to include the goodwill charge," GE's Chief Financial Officer Jamie Miller said on an earnings call. "The Department of Justice is also investigating this charge and the other areas we have previously reported are part of the SEC's investigation."
It's not the first time the federal government has probed the conglomerate's finances. In 2009, the SEC charged GE with accounting fraud and the company paid $50 million to settle the case.
News of the impairment charge comes after a series of bad headlines for GE Power.
Last month, a Texas gas plant using one of the company's latest turbine models had to shut down due to oxidation issues on its blades. The problem affects nearly 100 turbines across different models, analysts told Utility Dive, and will likely take years to fix.
Other problems facing GE power include lower growth in global electricity demand and a "poorly timed" acquisition of Alstom, a coal equipment manufacturer, in 2015, analysts said.
In the face of those issues, GE will split its power business into two parts, separating its natural gas product and services business from the units that cover steam, nuclear, power conversion and grid services. The move will help GE "improve cost structure, enhance execution agility, and drive better outcomes for customers and investors," the company said in a release.
GE will also reduce its dividend to a penny from more than 13 cents a share — a move it says will save $3.9 billion a year.
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