Even as French authorities give General Electric (NYSE: GE ) the cold shoulder, other countries around the world are warming up to its charms. Over the past few days, Bloomberg reported that at least $11 billion worth of orders came into GE's grasp from a host of countries in Latin America and the African nation of Angola. In an attempt to revive the manufacturer of old, GE's finding growth in new and unexpected places.
To be sure, GE's had a foothold in both regions for quite some time, but it's the size of the opportunity that's started to put these areas more squarely on the radar. At a company like GE, after all, it's hard to move the needle when you're raking in $146 billion in annual revenue. The entire continents of Africa and South America, for example, each made up less than 10% of GE's revenue in 2013. The U.S., meanwhile, generates 47% on its own. But, when it comes to infrastructure needs, it's the former locales that represent the low-hanging fruit.
In Latin America, multiple countries not named Brazil are clamoring to upgrade everything from power generation to clean water to transportation. As GE's vice chairman John Rice pointed out to Bloomberg in May, "We are now starting to see real growth in Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Chile. It used to be kind of all about Brazil and Mexico."
This latest batch of orders is evidence of that shift. Of the $11 billion mentioned before, about $10 billion stemmed from emerging economies across Latin America, an area holding tremendous promise for infrastructure providers. GE's management team believes $50 billion in revenue could be unlocked in the region, which compares to only $13.1 billion as of the end of 2013. If GE wants to bolster sales from 59% to 65% outside the U.S. by 2020, as it has said before, it will need to stake its claim to these types of rising economies.
Across the pond, Africa is another example of a similar infrastructure development story. When GE's CEO Immelt took the helm in 2001, Sub-Saharan Africa was, in his words, "off the radar." By 2012, GE was driving $3 billion from that region, however, and Immelt speculated that Angola in particular could be a "$1 billion Franchise" over the next few years. Well, this recent order takes it a step closer to that goal. The total purchase amounts to roughly $1 billion, but the order could take much longer than a year to fulfill. Nevertheless, signs point to GE achieving that $1 billion run rate in Angola in the near future. According to the International Monetary Fund, Angola's $122 billion economy is forecast to expand by 5.3% this year, and by 5.5% and 5.9% in the following two years. As a resource-rich region, expect much of that growth to translate to either energy- or infrastructure-related projects for companies like GE.
Where GE's headed
What's most important about these announcements is that they signal that GE's industrial reboot is well under way. Of all the objectives laid out by management in their latest outlook (link opens a PDF), the rebalancing of the portfolio away from non-financial businesses is by far the most important.
Some of this balance will come from organic growth, particularly overseas, as evidenced by these latest deals. On the flip side, GE's looking to acquire industrial revenues through opportunities like the Alstom buyout. From management's perspective, this will translate to a globally diversified leader in manufacturing, especially since 85% of Alstom's revenue stems from regions outside of North America. For GE, it's one step toward streamlining its business and one step toward expanding its global reach. For shareholders, that's two steps in the right direction.
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