IMMELT: Shame on us if we need activists to point out what we're doing wrong

Jeff ImmeltGettyJeff Immelt.

The CEO of one of America’s largest companies doesn’t really mind activist investors.

General Electric chief Jeff Immelt pointed to the potential benefits of shareholder activism in his 2015 investor letter.

“Activists challenge companies to set priorities, stop wasting money and time, and work on what is essential,” Immelt wrote.

That said, he’d rather do the activist work himself — and he thinks that’s just what GE is doing right now.

He explained that thinking in a segment of the letter about business “simplification.” Here’s the excerpt:

We have done a better job of being our own activist. Few companies can match our record of bold change. To be honest, I don’t think activists are necessarily bad for companies. They are able to take a fresh look. We like having smart investors in the stock, even when they have a point of view. Activists challenge companies to set priorities, stop wasting money and time, and work on what is essential. When a business team fails in GE, this is what you find: complicated accountability, too much cost in the wrong places, excessive priorities and low market awareness. These are factors activists point to when they criticise companies. Shame on us if we need help from the outside to find this out.

Activist shareholder Nelson Peltz holds a large stake in General Electric, and has used it to push the industrial giant to simplify and reshape itself.

GE in October sold its $30 billion specialty finance business to Wells Fargo.

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