"This is the end
Beautiful friend.
This is the end ...
Of our elaborate plans, the end."
The Doors, "The End"

On Monday, with a grunt and a final, mighty heave, General Electric (NYSE: GE) finished up its winter work of shoveling ... cash. Beating Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) to the punch, GE anted up $2.8 billion to acquire the well support division of John Wood Group.

In so doing, GE made the latest installment of a widely publicized $30 billion spending spree aimed at reinventing itself as an industrial powerhouse -- and what a strange trip it's been. As you recall, GE started off in an unexpected direction. Burned by ill-considered investments in the lending industry, GE's first move toward reinventing itself was to buy $1.6 billion worth of credit card debt from Citigroup (NYSE: C) -- an odd move, but GE soon corrected course, moving to:

  • Expand its footprint in energy with a $3 billion purchase of oil and gas equipment maker Dresser.
  • Drop $1.3 billion more on pipe manufacturer Wellstream Holdings (like John Wood, U.K.-based, and boasting a stable of well-heeled clients, including ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) in Brazil).
  • Along the way, GE reinvested more than $400 million in its appliances division.
  • And another $1 billion or so on electric cars.

Announcing the John Wood buy, GE Vice Chairman John Krenicki put a "period" on the acquisition spree in energy, pronouncing it "mission accomplished. ... We've got an industry-leading drilling and production business." But is it really the end?

After all, GE promised to spend $30 billion over two years. Yet the company's spending so far falls short of $10 billion -- meaning there's still $20 billion burning a hole in GE's pocket, $20 billion that GE has promised to spend. This is the $20 billion GE intends to spend, based on Krenicki's assertion that he still has "the firepower to do more things."

But where will GE spend it? My guess: Medical equipment is next on the shopping list. GE gets its best profit margins from energy industry sales, but the margins in health care (part of GE's "Technology Infrastructure" business) run a close second. Whether it's a fast-growing rival like Hologic (Nasdaq: HOLX), or a wounded giant like Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) that appears in GE's crosshairs, I cannot say -- but I'll bet they're aiming in that general direction.