The browning of GE
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- General Electric's decision to buy Britain's Wellstream Holdings PLC is clearly about securing a spot for itself in Brazil's booming deepwater oil industry.
But it also offers an interesting counterpoint to GE's own carefully groomed public energy persona.
For the past few years, GE has been busy prying open business opportunities in green energy. As part of the push, it created a separate R&D clean-tech unit called Ecomagination, slapping a bright green GE logo on the enterprise to visually drive home the point.
The company is now deep into wind power (turbines), it's a huge proponent of electric vehicles (recharging stations), and a major player in the developing a "smart" energy grid (smart meters) -- programs that also happen to be backed by billions of dollars in government stimulus funding.
So why is GE plunking down $1.3 billion to buy Wellstream Holdngs , a company that makes pipeline and other equipment for the offshore oil industry? Read about the GE-Wellstream deal.
Wellstream is an interesting choice because much of its operations and revenue are in Brazil, a country that's emerging as a global energy powerhouse because of its rich offshore oil fields, surplus of sugar-based ethanol fuels and extensive hydropower. GE simply wants to be in the mix.
The oil component of that mix is certainly looking more attractive than it did when GE launched Ecomagination a couple of years ago, before the Great Recession.
GE couldn't at the time have seen just how deep the recession would be, or what impact it would have on budgets aimed at "going green." They also couldn't have foreseen how the Cancun Climate Change Summit, which wrapped up this weekend, would end up being about as toothless as COP15, the Copenhagen climate change summit a year ago.
A major recession and an international stalemate over imposing stricter carbon controls are not helping GE's green technology sales. And who knows how long government stimuli are going to last, especially given the results of the mid-term elections here at home.
By buying Wellstream, GE is doing what all conglomerates do. It's diversifying. It's also plunking down a big chunk of cash to make sure it's got a piece of the action in the overseas offshore oil industry. That might not sound very green to an environmentalist, but given the current economic climate, it simply sounds like GE hedging its bet.
-- Jim Jelter