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GE Is First to Top $300 Billion in Market Value

July 08, 1998| From Bloomberg News

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — With all the hype about shares in sexy new Internet companies, a business that began 106 years ago blows them all away--at least by one measure.

General Electric Co., which makes everything from light bulbs to locomotives, on Tuesday became the first U.S. company to top $300 billion in market value. It's another milestone in the 17-year reign of Chief Executive Jack Welch.

GE stock rose 75 cents to close at a record $92.63 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Multiplying GE's stock price times the number of shares outstanding gives the company a market value of $301.8 billion.

The second most valuable U.S. company is Microsoft Corp., worth about $266 billion based on Tuesday's stock price of $107.94.

GE stock has surged 33% over the last year as the Fairfield, Conn.-based company has concentrated on being the leader in each of its 12 businesses, which range from making jet engines to operating NBC, the top-rated U.S. television network. Net income has grown at 12%, on average, over the last five years.

"It's the certainty at GE," said Tim Stevenson, an analyst at American Express Financial Advisors, which owned 19.3 million GE shares at the end of March. "Corporate America goes through trends. GE has stuck to its portfolio of businesses and Welch has been able to deliver."

GE's market cap climbed to No. 1 in 1996 from No. 11, or $13 billion, when Welch took over in 1981. Formed in 1892 when Edison General Electric Co. and Thomson-Houston Co. merged. GE is the only original stock still in the Dow Jones industrial average.

In recent years, GE has attracted investors through Welch's push to contain costs, boost sales and find new markets worldwide.

GE's $90.8 billion in sales last year ranked fifth among U.S. companies, behind General Motors, Ford Motor, Exxon and Wal-Mart Stores. But GE's $8.2 billion in 1997 net income ranked second behind Exxon's $8.4 billion.

Welch, 62, said in May he sees GE's sales at $125 billion in 2000.

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