General Electric wants to sell its stake in more than 100 start-ups

Key Points
  • GE Ventures is looking for a buyer for its portfolio of start-up investments, sources say.
  • GE CEO Larry Culp is in the midst of what he calls a multiyear turnaround.
  • The stock is down 23% over the past 12 months.
Larry Culp, CEO, General Electric
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

GE Ventures is looking for a buyer for its portfolio of more than 100 start-ups, according to people familiar with the matter, as parent company General Electric tries to orchestrate a turnaround and get its debt problem under control.

The venture arm, which started in 2013, has been shopping itself for several months and is in discussions with other venture firms as well as groups of limited partners who invest in those funds, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are confidential. GE Ventures hired investment bank Lazard to manage the process, said two of the people.

GE is in a difficult financial position, with $110 billion in debt as of March 31, according to FactSet, and it continues to burn cash as CEO Larry Culp works through what he's calling a multiyear turnaround. The stock is down 23% over the past 12 months even after rallying 43% so far this year. GE Capital reduced its liabilities in the first quarter, completing $1.1 billion in asset reductions in the period. GE is also under investigation for its accounting practices.

GE Ventures has invested in a range of start-ups in areas like energy, technology and health care. Its portfolio includes Evidation Health, which focuses on clinical studies, Verana Health, a patient-focused life sciences company, and augmented reality software developer Upskill.

Selling a venture portfolio is particularly challenging because the buyer has to assume ownership of not only the companies that have market traction but also those that are struggling, and in start-up land there tend to be far more failures than successes. GE has made clear to potential buyers that it does not want to sell off its investments on a piecemeal basis, but would prefer to offload the entire basket and ideally find a home for its remaining partners, people familiar with the matter said.

"During this time of transformation for GE, we are evaluating strategic options for GE Ventures to continue delivering returns for our shareholders and partners," said Megan Newhouse, a GE spokesperson, in a statement. "While we can't comment specifically on that process, we remain committed to supporting our portfolio companies, business units and partnering with the entrepreneurial ecosystem."

Lazard declined to comment.

GE Ventures was started by Sue Siegel, who is now GE's chief innovation officer and remains CEO of the ventures arm, according to her company bio. Many of the group's top partners have left the firm in recent months, including Lisa Suennen, Noah Lewis and Jessica Zeaske.

In January, MedCityNews reported that GE Ventures would look to spin out from its parent company. The company has since shifted its strategy to focus instead on a search for a buyer.

Correction: The Key Points of this article have been updated with the correct percentage GE's stock has fallen over the last 12 months.

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