General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt Getty Images

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt

GE Abandons 3-D Printing Deal as Billionaire Singer Balks

The deal’s collapse is a setback for GE’s efforts to expand use of so-called additive manufacturing as it focuses on building industrial equipment with digital capabilities.

General Electric Co. abandoned its planned acquisition of a German 3-D printing company after failing to receive support from shareholders including  billionaire Paul Singer.

A tender offer of 38 euros a share for SLM Solutions Group AG lapsed after the “minimum acceptance condition” wasn’t met by the Oct. 24 deadline, GE said Wednesday in a statement. It doesn’t plan to negotiate new terms, spokesman Rick Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

The deal’s collapse is a setback for GE’s efforts to expand use of so-called additive manufacturing as it focuses on building industrial equipment with digital capabilities. The Boston-based company, which already uses the machines to print fuel nozzles for jet engines, has said acquisitions can help it build a $1 billion 3-D printing business by 2020.

SLM plunged on the news, erasing earlier gains and falling 11% to 32.25 euros at 8:17 p.m. on regional exchanges in Germany. Shares trading in Frankfurt closed at 37.40 euros before GE’s announcement, giving the German company a market value of 672 million euros ($734 million). GE rose 0.8% to $28.88 in New York.

GE last month announced a plan to acquire the German company and Sweden’s Arcam AB for a combined $1.4 billion. The SLM purchase ran into trouble after Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., a hedge fund that has been acquiring shares in both printing companies, said last week it would reject the bid because it was “not in the best interests of SLM shareholders.”

An Elliott representative declined to comment. The hedge fund hasn’t disclosed its view on the Arcam deal.

The SLM bid represented a 38% premium over the closing price the day before the deal was disclosed.

Investors holding at least 75% of the target company’s stock were needed to approve the transaction. Elliott affiliates had acquired more than 20% of SLM, it said last week. GE didn’t say what percentage of investors had accepted the offer.

After Elliott’s resistance, GE on Friday said it wouldn’t raise the offer price or extend the acceptance period. Jeff Bornstein, GE’s chief financial officer, said in an interview last week that the company was willing to walk away from the SLM deal and that GE has “other options” to grow in the 3-D printing market.

The aborted deal won’t hurt GE’s ability to do small “bolt-on” acquisitions, Eric Ause, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, said in an e-mail. “There will still be opportunities in other businesses to target acquisitions that offer relatively high sales growth or synergies, and where GE can leverage its technological expertise and scale.”

‘Exert Influence’

Singer had been boosting his stake since GE’s original offer and had said he intended to “exert influence” over matters such as the company’s capital structure and the makeup of managing and supervisory bodies. His firm is the second-largest shareholder in Arcam, with about 10% of outstanding shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

GE said last week that it would extend the acceptance period for its offer for Arcam to Nov. 1 from Oct. 14. That process continues to move forward, Kennedy said.

Elliott has a track record of investing in European acquisition targets and holding out for a better price. It also has shown a willingness to remain a minority holder to benefit from the offers while preventing complete takeovers.

The hedge fund recently refused to tender its stake in Axis Communications AB, keeping Canon Inc. from owning more than 87% of the company. Elliott held out when EQT Partners AB acquired Swedish software maker Industrial & Financial Systems IFS AB, eventually selling for about 9% more than other shareholders.

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