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  • General Electric CompanyFairfield, Connecticut 06431 Bulk Rate

    U.S. PostagePaidGeneral Electric Company

    General Electric Com

    pany 1997 Annual Report

    General Electric Company


    1997Annual Report


  • 1

    To Our Share Owners and Employees

    In 1997, your Company had a great yeara record year.

    Ongoing revenues rose to $89.3 billion; up 13%.

    Global (non-U.S.) revenues rose to $38.5billion, now 42% of total revenues.

    Earnings increased to more than $8.2 bil-lion; up 13%.

    Earnings per share increased 14% to arecord $2.50.

    Ongoing operating margin rose to a record15.7%, exceeding 15% for the first time inthe history of our Company.

    Operating cash flow rose to a record $9.3billion. This, in combination with our Triple A debt rating, fueled theinvestment of $17.2 billion in more than 75 industrial and financialservices acquisitions in 1997.

    This record cash flow also allowed us to return $7 billion to share owners: $3.5 billion in dividends and $3.5 billion for the repurchaseof GE stock. Dividends were increased by 15%, our 22nd consecutiveannual dividend increase.

    In April, our share owners approved a 2-for-1 stock split, the fourthin the last 15 years.

    Our share owners including our active and retired employees,who now own more than $12 billion in GE stock in their savingsplans were rewarded for this performance. The total returnon a share of GE stock was 51% in 1997; this followed gains of 40% in 1996 and 45% in 1995.

    Chairman and ChiefExecutive Officer John F. Welch, Jr.(front) and Vice Chair-men and ExecutiveOfficers Paolo Fresco(left), John D. Opie(center) and Eugene F. Murphy (right) formGEs Corporate Executive Office.

  • Mexico in the mid-1990s was a similar story: dis-location, uncertainty and turbulence. Reacting tothe peso crisis of 1995 and its aftermath, GE moved,acquiring 10 companies and investing more than$1 billion in new and existing operations. Theresult was revenue growth of 60% and a doublingof earnings in the two years following the crisis.

    Today, we are determined, and poised, to dothe same thing in Asia we have done in the UnitedStates, Europe and Mexico: invest in the future.

    GlobalizationGlobalization is one of the engines of GE growth,now and well into the next century. There will bedislocations and speed bumps on the road to pros-perity in all the worlds critical markets, but onecannot afford to write off any region in difficulty.Bad business management or bad governmentpolicies that weaken competitiveness can be reme-died by tough restructuring and policy change.

    The same conditions that made restructuringand reform necessary frequently create a cur-rency weakness that, when coupled with theincreased competitiveness brought about byrestructuring, leads the country out of recession,via internal growth and increased exports.The path to greatness in Asia is irreversible,and GE will be there.

    ServicesAnother growth engine, which we have describedfor you in the past, is Services. By any measure, GE is today a global service company, and in 1998more than two-thirds of its revenues will comefrom financial, information and product services.Our second major initiative is focused on high-technology product services. In 1997, we achieved


    e delivered these 1997 results by executingon our three major initiatives: globaliza-

    tion, a focus on product services and our drive forSix Sigma quality. Building on these same threeinitiatives will be critical to our future success.

    The uncertainty brought about by the Asianeconomic difficulties creates both challenges andopportunities. For GE, Asia represents about 9%of our revenues (about half in Japan) exposurethat is by no means insignificant, but certainlymanageable and we are confident that we canminimize any impact on our existing operations.

    It has been our repeated experience that busi-ness uncertainty is inevitably accompanied byopportunity. The Asian situation should be noexception; it should provide us with a uniqueopportunity to make the strategic moves that willincrease our presence and our participation inwhat we know will be one of the worlds great mar-kets of the 21st Century.

    Weve been down this path before. In the early1980s, we experienced a United States mired inrecession, hand-wringing from the pundits anddirges being sung over American manufacturing.We didnt buy this dismal scenario; instead, weinvested in both a widespread restructuring and innew businesses. We emerged into the recovery amuch more competitive and productive company.

    Our successful experience with U.S. businessuncertainty gave us a very different view of theEuropean malaise of the early 1990s.

    To us, Europe looked a lot like the UnitedStates in the 1980s, and in need of the same reme-dies: restructuring, spin-offs, and the like. So,while many were writing-off Europe, we investedheavily, buying new companies and expandingour existing presence. Following the restructuringof its industrial and financial structure, as well as a dose of the powerful export medicine of a deval-ued currency, Europe is now recovering, and GE Europe is now a $20.6 billion operation. Our revenues have more than doubled from 1994to 1997; net income has tripled to more than $1.5 billion; and this growth is accelerating as theEuropean recovery progresses.

    Today, we are determined, and poised,to do the same thing in Asia we havedone in the United States, Europe andMexico: invest in the future.


  • a second consecutive year of double-digit growth inproduct service revenues and improved ongoingoperating margin, while making 20 acquisitions andjoint ventures, primarily in the industrial, power,medical and aircraft engine services businesses. Keyamong these were the $1.5 billion Greenwich/UNCjet engine service acquisition and the recently com-pleted $600 million acquisition of the gas turbine-related businesses of Stewart & Stevenson Services, aglobal power generation equipment service company.

    The opportunity for growth in product servicesis unlimited. We have the ability, using high-technology services, to make our customers existingassets (e.g., power plants, locomotives, airplanes,factories, hospital equipment and the like) moreproductive, and by doing so reduce their capitaloutlays. This growing capability, much of it infor-mation technology-based, will enable us to increaseour revenues from product services by more than30% in 1998 to $13 billion.

    Six SigmaWe have described our progress in globalizationand services rather quickly so we could cover indepth something we talk to each other about allday: the centerpiece of our dreams and aspirationsfor this great Company the drive for Six Sigmaquality. Six Sigma is a disciplined methodology,led and taught by highly trained GE employeescalled Master Black Belts and Black Belts, thatfocuses on moving every process that touches ourcustomers every product and service towardnear-perfect quality.

    Six Sigma project work consists of five basicactivities: Defining, Measuring, Analyzing,Improving and then Controlling processes. Theseprojects usually focus on improving our customersproductivity and reducing their capital outlays,while increasing the quality, speed and efficiencyof our operations.

    We didnt invent Six Sigma we learned it.Motorola pioneered it and AlliedSignal success-fully embraced it. The experiences of these twocompanies, which they shared with us, made thelaunch of our initiative much simpler and faster.


    GE had another huge advantage that acceler-ated our quality effort: we had a Company that wasopen to change, hungry to learn and anxious tomove quickly on a good idea.

    This learning environment came from a decade-long, soul-transforming cultural initiative calledWork-Out. Work-Out is a continuing effort toachieve what we call boundaryless behaviorbusiness behavior that tramples or demolishes allbarriers of rank, function, geography and bureau-cracy in an endless pursuit of the best idea inthe cause of engaging and involving every mindin the Company.

    After a decade of Work-Out, most of the oldbureaucracy and the boundaries among us havebeen demolished. (We are, however, aware thatbureaucracy is the Dracula of institutional behav-ior, and will rise again and again, requiring every-one in the organization to reflexively pound stakesthrough its reappearances.) But at GE today and we are obviously proud of this finding the better way, the best idea, from whomever will share it with us, has become our central focus.

    Nowhere has this learning environment, thissearch for the better idea, been more powerfullydemonstrated than in our drive for Six Sigma qual-ity. Twenty-eight months ago, we became con-vinced that Six Sigma quality could play a centralrole in GEs future; but we believed, as well, that itwould take years of consistent communication,relentless emphasis and impassioned leadership tomove this big Company on this bold new course.

    We were wrong! We are the ones who now find ourselves run-

    ning to keep up with the excited charge of tens ofthousands of GE employees who have seen thetransformational magic the rejuvenation thatthis combination of rigid discipline and cheerfulfanaticism can achieve in our businesses. Projec-tions of our progress in Six Sigma, no matter howoptimistic, have had to be junked every few monthsas gross underestimates.

    Six Sigma has spread like wildfire across theCompany, and it is transforming everything we do.

  • 4

    We had our annual Operating Managers Meeting 500 of our senior business leadersfrom around the globe during the first week ofJanuary 1998, and it turned out to be a wonderfulsnapshot of the way this learning Company thisnew GE has come to


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