State Street Nears Deal to Buy GE Asset Management

Feb 4 2016 | 11:21pm ET

By Mike Stone (Reuters) - State Street is nearing a deal to acquire General Electric’s $115 billion asset management business, according to people familiar with the matter, as the U.S. industrial conglomerate continues to shed unloved assets.

State Street, a Boston-based asset manager, has prevailed over other bidders, including Goldman Sachs, for the business, and is now in the final stages of negotiating a deal with GE, the people said this week.

An agreement could come as early as this month and value GE's asset management business at as much as $500 million, the people added, cautioning that the negotiations could still fall through.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential.

"We have had a very high level of interest from potential acquirers of GE Asset Management in the market and the deal is progressing well. At this time, there is no public announcement about a buyer. Our original deal timeline remains on track, and we still expect to conclude our strategic evaluation this quarter," GE said in statement.

State Street did not respond to a request for comment, while Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

GE's asset management arm managed $115 billion in assets as of June 30. It manages retirement plans for the vast majority of the company's 130,000 U.S. employees, as well as assets for outside institutional investors including third-party retirement plans.

GE has said that proceeds from the transaction would be deposited into its pension trust, increasing assets used to pay GE pension plan benefits. The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company said in its latest annual report that the GE pension plan was underfunded by $15.8 billion at the end of last year, compared to $4.7 billion as of the end of 2013.

Assets in GE's principal pension plans earned 5.9 percent in 2014, according to the report. The average return for the top 100 U.S. corporate pension plans was 10.9 percent in 2014, according to benefit consulting firm Milliman. 

A deal for the asset management business would follow moves by GE to sell the vast majority of GE Capital, a separate $200 billion financing business, as it seeks to return to its industrial roots. 

The acquisition would also provide a boost to State Street, which has suffered from fund outflows. Net withdrawals among its long-term institutional clients totaled $100 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, total revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $2.54 billion, a 3.3 percent decline from the year-earlier period.

State Street had $28 trillion in assets under custody and administration and $2 trillion in assets under management as of the end of December. It has a market capitalization of about $22 billion.

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