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Europe has ‘become a cartoon’ and firms are missing out on investing, GE’s Immelt says

Europe is misrepresented abroad and this could be stopping U.S. companies investing in the region, outgoing General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said on Thursday.

During a talk at the Viva Tech conference in Paris, France, Immelt addressed the opportunities in Europe where GE has been investing.

Jeffrey Immelt
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jeffrey Immelt

"We are long Europe … we have always found Europe a good place to be . When everybody else was getting out we were getting in. And so, we are very vested in Europe … it's a productive workforce," Immelt said.

The GE CEO, who is stepping down from August 1, said that outside of the region, Europe has got a bad reputation.

"Europe to a certain extent, has become a cartoon … You've allowed yourself to be portrayed as not as productive," Immelt said.

"So people who sit someplace else in the world and all they do is read the newspaper, they don't come and invest, versus people like us who acquire companies, who have had to make a go of it on the ground. You have a very different impression when you're on the ground."

Immelt explained that GE has large operations in Italy, France, Germany and the Nordic region, and all of those export globally. He said that Europe is underrated and is a good place to invest, even though it may not be the most simple place to do business.

"Is it as easy as I'd like to see all the time? No, of course not. But this region has a good chance to be competitive," Immelt said.