If you're a senior Fool, you likely recall a time when a mention of General Electric (NYSE:GE) conjured up thoughts of electric light bulbs, dishwashers, and even vacuum cleaners. Today, both you and more recent Foolish additions are probably less certain about what precisely constitutes the big company.
Let's then take a quick tour of the industrial and financial behemoth. Its largest industrial segment is power and water; as such, it manufactures numerous verities of turbines and generators, including wind turbines and solar technology. Unfortunately, that unit was but one of seven non-financial units to experience declines in both revenues and earnings during the past quarter.
Other GE segments turn out jet engines, health care diagnostic and monitoring equipment, freight and passenger locomotives and diesel engines. Those industrial lines led to $25.2 billion in revenues for the second quarter of this year. Then, of course, there's GE Capital, which generates about $11 billion a quarter in revenues through its commercial loans, fleet management, credit cards, and personal loans.
Focus on traditional energy
To my way of thinking, the real emerging intrigue in the company lies in its oil and gas segment. The unit cranks out an expanding array of technologically sophisticated systems and equipment for the world's increasingly challenging quest for oil and gas.
In the June quarter, the oil and gas segment generated 16% of total industrial revenues, in the process expanding its contribution to the corporate total by 9% year over year, and to its profit by a healthy 14%. Today, from a revenue expansion perspective, the unit is the fastest-growing industrial operation in the company.
That trend clearly won't be reversed during the current quarter, since earlier this month, Texas-based lift equipment (pumps) manufacturer Lufkin Industries was added to General Electric's oil and gas repertoire. For about $3.3 billion, Lufkin will likely return in excess of $1.3 billion in annual revenue to GE.
A wide oil and gas array
For now, GE's range of oil and gas products includes enhanced oil recovery solutions, drilling equipment for both land and offshore, refinery and petrochemical products and components, and measurement and sensing devices. In addition, perhaps its most technologically advanced offerings are found in its full range of liquefied natural gas processing equipment and its subsea solutions, which include blowout preventers and equipment for the rapidly expanding world of activity at the bottom of the sea.
Meaningful competition in the subsea will almost certainly come from OneSubsea, a joint venture that has recently been established by Cameron International (NYSE:CAM.DL) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB). From an ownership perspective, the partnership tilts 60% to Cameron, 40% for Schlumberger. It's likely that an impending battle is shaping up between the technologically advanced owners of OneSubsea and General Electric that will hasten the fast-accelerating significance of the subsea realm.
A solid quarter for oil and gas
During the company's recent post-release conference call, Keith S. Sherin, GE's vice chairman, summed up General Electric's successes in oil and gas by noting:
Results...were very strong. Orders of $5 billion were up 24%. Equipment orders of $2.8 billion were up 42%. We saw double-digit growth across all the segments with turbo machinery up 74%, driven by U.S. midstream LNG orders. Subsea was up 30% , driven by large projects in Indonesia and Angola. Service orders at $2.3 billion were up 8%. We saw a nice growth in global services, up 14%.
From a purely analytical perspective, it's worth noting that quarterly revenues attributable to oil and gas have increased by an average of about 3% per quarter since the start of 2012. At the same time, through buybacks and a 3.10% forward annual dividend yield, as CEO Jeffrey Immelt noted on the call, the company is on track to return $18 billion to shareholders this year. At the same time, it's sitting atop more than $132 billion in cash.
Another shopping spree?
The last figure is hardly inconsequential. As I noted above, Lufkin Industries has just become part of the GE fold. I'm not at all convinced, however, that other significant purchases aren't in the offing. One name that has been bandied about by oil-field services types is Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT).
By my calculation, Weatherford's $19 billion in enterprise value -- which obviously includes its nearly $9 billion in net debt -- comes to just 7.9 times its trailing-12-month EBITDA. The Geneva-based integrated service provider, which has been battling tax difficulties, would seemingly constitute an ideal arrow for GE's oil and gas quiver.
There obviously are other aspects of General Electric's business portfolio that make for a compelling opportunity. However, the company's being catapulted into a leading position in the oil and gas services sector that, for my money, makes it well worth Foolish scrutiny.