GE breakup is likely and could come as soon as this spring: Sources

  • GE seen as likely to embrace major company break-up, sources tell CNBC's David Faber.
  • GE breakup could come as soon as this spring, the sources said.
  • "We are looking aggressively at the best structure or structures for our portfolio to maximize the potential of our businesses," CEO John Flannery said on an investor call.

General Electric may be looking at splitting itself up after poor shareholder returns in the past year.

The company is aiming to announce a decision on a breakup as early as this spring, sources tell CNBC's David Faber. A split is likely, the sources told Faber.

General Electric said Tuesday after a review of its GE Capital insurance portfolio that it will take a $6.2 billion after-tax charge for the fourth quarter of 2017.

On the call with investors explaining the charge, CEO John Flannery seemed to imply he is ready to make significant changes to the company.

"Today, I am more convinced than ever, that we have substantial underlying strengths and value that have been suppressed in the current context. As a result, we are looking aggressively at the best structure or structures for our portfolio to maximize the potential of our businesses, continue to deliver outstanding products and services to our customers, enhance our ability to provide attractive opportunities for our employees, while maximizing value for our shareholders," Flannery said on an investor call Tuesday.

"Our results over the past several years including 2017 and the insurance charge only further my belief that we need to continue to move with purpose to reshape GE. We will continue to rigorously review our alternatives to deliver shareholder value, and report out to you as we make progress this spring."

General Electric shares significantly underperformed the market in the past year. The stock declined 40 percent through Friday in the past 12 months versus the S&P 500's 22.5 percent return.

One Wall Street analyst is surprised at the size of the insurance portfolio charge and reserve numbers.

"After an analysis of the GE long term care exposure, we had thought an outsized charge was likely, but have to admit the $15B of additional capital ultimately being required was far in excess of our adverse case expectations, and is a negative read across for other insurers with sizeable long term care blocks in our view," Evercore ISI analyst Thomas Gallagher wrote Tuesday.

The company reduced its dividend and unveiled a restructuring plan during its November investor day. It was the company's first investor day under Flannery, who succeeded Jeff Immelt in August.

GE shares closed down 2.9 percent Tuesday at $18.21 a share.

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