General Electric CEO: These aren’t dark times
The CEO of General Electric elicited some audience groans while telling an oil and gas crowd the industry looks much brighter than it seems.
“These aren’t dark times,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said Monday, especially compared to the 2008 recession. “These are like happy days.”
GE has its Oil & Gas and its Renewable Energy businesses, but the industrial and technology conglomerate is much less fossil fuel dependent than most of the participants at this week’s IHS CERAWeek conference in downtown Houston.
However, Immelt didn’t only spout optimism. He said he foresees a relatively prolonged period of slow growth.
“In a world of slow growth and volatility, you need the courage to act,” Immelt said. “Because you’re in the self-help business.”
He referenced the admittedly risky move GE made last year to buy France-based Alstom’s power and grid businesses for $10.6 billion.
“It’s not the best time in the cycle to be making a bet like this,” he said.
However, the opportunity was too good to pass up, even though “there’s 100 ways to screw it up.”
“There’s only a finite numbers of players on the game board,” Immelt said. “These opportunities come around once in a generation.”
He said GE has the execution skills to make the deal profitable.
The move helps GE grow its power generation and renewable businesses substantially in areas like Europe, Brazil and Africa, he said.
GE formally launched its GE Renewable Energy business in November after the Alstom deal.
He referenced taking the chance and buying Enron Wind on the cheap in 2002 as Enron cratered. Now, GE’s wind turbine business is one of the world’s largest.
Immelt questioned the future of coal, including carbon capture and storage technologies to make coal more clean. “I’m not so sure on that one,” he said, noting the high costs of carbon capture and the lack of investments from governments.
He said he is instead taking the long bet on energy storage technologies, like battery storage and more.