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Earlier this week, I wrote that with market conditions being what they are, Fools might revisit the largest U.S. company, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) . It therefore may seem like a systematic traipse down Market Cap Lane when I suggest that No. 2 General Electric (NYSE: GE ) also deserves more than a passing gander.
The past year hasn't been an especially happy one for the General. With Mr. Market anything but stable, its shares have declined by about a quarter to around $29. And if you take the time to skim the company's second-quarter earnings release, you might think that I'm jumping the gun. Net income was down nearly 6% from the year-ago figure.
However, it's what's going on structurally at GE that's really piqued my interest. For instance, it has been divesting freely, pruning underperforming units while building up its stronger parts. Heading out the door are its consumer and industrial businesses, through a spinoff to GE shareholders. So it's soon to be out from under its historic -- but slow-moving -- appliance lines, along with its lighting, motors, and electrical units.
But rather than just chopping, GE is adding appropriate units and garnering orders faster than you can say "General, sir." For example, it began this month by announcing that it'll buy Citigroup's (NYSE: C ) commercial leasing and commercial equipment finance businesses, thereby adding about $13.2 billion in assets. At the same time, it announced that its Jenbacher unit's gas engines would power China's first chicken manure-biogas plant. (That's not what I meant in the first paragraph above by "a passing gander.")
These are all moves I like, including the approach of spinning off company parts to loyal shareholders rather than selling them outright in a weak mergers and acquisitions market. Beyond that, I'm hardly dissuaded from focusing on this cash-spinning company's forward P/E just above 12 times, and its 4.3% dividend yield. But while it really is a random event that I'm high on both the first- and second-largest U.S. companies, don't count me out from someday scratching on your door with thoughts about next-in-line Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) .
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