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General Electric's move to effectively get out of the financial services business was being met with generally positive commentary on Wall Street, and the stock price early Friday reflected that optimism.
Former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch wrote to CNBC: "I like the package. It looks like a smart move and right for the changing financial landscape."
Larry Bossidy, who spent decades as an executive at General Electric, said he greets Friday's news with mixed emotions because of "all the hard work that went into building a huge, risk-contained financial Colossus, which was highly profitable in the 1980s, the 1990s, and even into the new century."
"Subsequently, the balance sheet was extended to excess on both the asset and liabilities side in terms of too much short-term borrowing. So they were vulnerable to the financial meltdown," he argued, "and as a consequence took the company to the point of disaster."
Upon survival, GE Capital was given a systemically important financial institution designation by regulators, which was encumbering, explained Bossidy, who later went on to be chairman and CEO of Honeywell. "What they announced today was the right thing to do in these times."
GE stock was up nearly 7.6 percent to $27.68 in early trading Friday—eclipsing the previous 52-week high.
GE said Friday it's selling the bulk of the assets in its GE Capital unit and returning most of those proceeds to shareholders in the form of a $50 billion share buyback.
This move to become a more pure industrial play will result in a $16 billion after-tax charge in the first quarter of 2015.
Surprised GE moved all at once and this quickly, Steven Winoker, senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told CNBC, "It's basically less general and more electric."
"To take out the rest of GE Capital and leave in the most attractive parts of the industrial business ... is the really right and great strategic choice," he added. "They are addressing a lot of the criticism that they haven't been moving aggressively enough."
Winoker had a $30 price target for GE stock prior to Friday's announcement. "That's without consideration of really maximizing value the way they are doing it today. I think that would put more pressure to the upside."
Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners, was less effusive. "If this does move the company to key areas to be in in the future, then it is a positive move."
"You want to position, especially a conglomerate like GE to be in the businesses of the future," he continued. "However, it seems like they get out of things at the bottom and kind of into things at the top."
As part of the plan, General Electric will sell off a portfolio of real estate assets, mostly to Blackstone and Wells Fargo. The total sales, including deals with other buyers, are worth $26 billion. GE is keeping the financial operations that help customers finance purchases of equipment from the company.
Moody's Investors Service said Friday it downgraded the senior unsecured debt rating for General Electric to A1 from Aa3, along with all the other instrument ratings for GE.
"The downgrades reflect our perception of a growing level of financial risk tolerance, in favor of equity holders and at the expense of creditors," the ratings agency said in a press release.
GE's credit rating outlook remains stable at Moody's.