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GE Expands Debt Buyback by $2 Billion on Strong Demand

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(Bloomberg) — General Electric Co. said it now expects to buy back $25 billion of bonds, expanding one of the biggest debt repurchases ever, after finding strong demand from investors to sell the securities.

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Investors have so far offered to sell about $33 billion of bonds to the company, GE said in a statement. GE had sought to buy back as much as $23 billion of the securities in a process known as a tender offer.

“The upsized offer may indicate GE’s comfort with cash flow in the important fourth quarter and is consistent with its deleveraging plans,” said Joel Levington, credit analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

But the company’s bonds already trade at levels consistent with higher debt ratings, signaling they may not rally materially on Friday’s news, Levington said. GE’s shares fell about 6% amid a broader market decline, as concerns about a new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa hit companies in industries including aerospace.

With the latest buybacks and other steps, GE said on Friday it now expects to cut its debt levels by more than $80 billion by the end of the year from the end of 2018. Earlier this month, the company said it was on track to cut debt by more than $75 billion.

In its tender offer, GE is targeting buybacks in as many as about 50 securities maturing through 2050. The original tender offer was made the day after the company said it will split into three separate entities, one of the final stages in a vast debt cutting effort that the company has undertaken over the course of years.

The once-sprawling industrial conglomerate has been slashing its debt load in earnest since Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp took over in 2018. Large asset sales, including the $30 billion sale of its aircraft leasing unit to AerCap Holdings NV this year, are helping GE achieve that goal.

In this tender offer, money managers told the company how much they were willing to sell back by Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. New York time, the early deadline. Additional sellers may emerge, and the final deadline is Dec. 9.

(Updates with analyst comment in third paragraph. Previous versions of this story corrected the timing of the launch of the tender offer.)

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