General Electric Company's Quiet Cash Machine

General Electric is a massive company with a wide range of businesses. But one essential thing to know about GE Capital is often neglected.

Jun 21, 2014 at 7:28AM

General Electric (NYSE:GE) is one of the most well-known and well-recognized companies on the planet. But there's one hidden truth about its business that often goes undiscussed.

The wide range of businesses
One of the most fascinating things about General Electric is the wide range of businesses and divisions which all come together to create the company itself:

$billions. Source: Company Investor Relations

Yet with the upcoming spin-off the consumer finance unit of GE Capital -- it will IPO as Synchrony Financial later this year -- the firm expects GE Capital's earnings to dip to roughly $5 billion by 2015. It'll undoubtedly still be a large unit, but it won't be quite as massive as it has been in the past.

But taking a step backward, what does GE Capital the business mean to General Electric the company?

Since 2012, the unit has delivered a staggering $13 billion back to General Electric -- "the parent" -- and Jeff Immelt recently highlighted GE Capital is expected to return another $3 billion this year.  

That money is in turn used for share buybacks or mergers and acquisitions for its massive industrial segment.

Investors should see this as a true bright spot for the General Electric as a whole.

Ge Jefferyturner

Source: Flickr / Jeffery Turner

The key to capital allocation
One of the most important factors impacting the longer term success of a company is capital allocation. This is recognizing what firms do with the money they earn. Whether it be through dividends, share buybacks, reinvestment back into the business, paying off debt, or buying new businesses, ultimately the money they're able to earn has to go somewhere.

In the case of GE Capital, it's interesting to note its key purpose is to supply the fuel for buybacks or acquisitions.

In some ways GE Capital mirrors the insurance units of Berkshire Hathaway. Like the insurance arms, GE Capital a highly profitable business that generates returns impressive returns -- it's profit margin stood at 18.7% last year -- but it doesn't require continual investment to keep its function. As a result, its profits are in turn deployed to make investments in other profitable businesses across the globe.

This should cause optimism for investors, because General Electric itself has noted the wide range of opportunity that are available to its other businesses. The $11 billion of orders from countries in Latin America and Angola is just one example of many.

It's encouraging to know General Electric has a unit that doesn't require significant investment or capital expenditures to keep it functioning, but instead generates cash that can in turn be deployed to other more profitable businesses. It'll be important to monitor how well it is doing in making acquisitions and to ensure the money is used effectively, but being able to do so is a great place to start.

Top dividend stocks for the next decade
One of the things that draws people into to General Electric as an investment is its impressive dividend yield. That's because the smartest investors know dividend stocks simply crush their non-dividend paying counterparts over the long term. They also know that a well-constructed dividend portfolio creates wealth steadily, while still allowing you to sleep like a baby. Knowing how valuable such a portfolio might be, our top analysts put together a report on a group of high-yielding stocks that should be in any income investor's portfolio. To see our free report on these stocks, just click here now.

Patrick Morris owns shares of General Electric Company. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

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This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

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The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

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That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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