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Lights Off: GE to Sell Off Commerical-Lighting Division

Nov. 6, 2018
GE is selling off its intelligent energy unit called Current to American Industrial Partners, the latest in a flurry of $10 billion asset sales over the 12 months.

by Ed Hammond and Richard Clough

General Electric Co. agreed to sell its commercial-lighting division to American Industrial Partners, as new Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp streamlines the industrial giant's manufacturing portfolio.

The sale to the private equity firm, financial terms of which weren't disclosed, is one of Culp's first public moves to get GE back on track after disclosing an expanded accounting federal probe and worsening troubles at the power-equipment business. GE announced Culp's surprise appointment Oct. 1 after its shares lost more than $100 billion in market value under the 14-month tenure of his predecessor, John Flannery.

American Industrial's purchase of the unit, which is known as Current, is expected to close early next year, subject to customary conditions, the companies said in a statement Tuesday.

Current offers energy consulting services to businesses and municipalities that help them control and lower their power costs by digitally managing their lighting systems. It's part of a division that includes a consumer light-bulb business that GE also is attempting to sell.

With revenue of $385 million, the overall lighting division accounted for just 1.3% of GE's total in the third quarter. Segment profit rose 86% to $26 million.

The shares advanced 1.6% to $9.43 at 10:11 a.m. in New York, positioning the company to break a nine-day losing streak. GE fell 47% this year through Monday, the third-worst decline on the S&P 500 Index.

Deal Focus

GE has announced at least $10 billion in asset sales over the last 12 months, including its century-old rail business in May, as it focuses on aviation, power-generation equipment and renewable energy. The Boston-based company sold the bulk of its international and automotive lighting businesses earlier this year.

AIP has more than 90 transactions completed and $4.2 billion of assets under management, according to Tuesday's statement. Its portfolio companies employ more than 51,000 workers and have combined revenue of about $12 billion, according to its website.

Maryrose Sylvester, the CEO of Current, will continue to run the business.

"GE's history of innovation, quality, reliability and deep domain expertise is an ideal fit with our investment strategy," AIP partner Eric Baroyan, said in the statement. "We look forward to continuing that legacy by supporting Current's management team."

UBS Group AG acted as lead financial adviser to GE, and Sidley Austin acted as lead legal adviser. Greentech Capital Advisors and Wells Fargo & Co. also advised GE.

Barclays Plc acted as financial adviser to AIP. Ropes & Gray and McGuireWoods acted as legal advisers.

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