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GE CEO Jeff Immelt Alex Wong/Getty Images

GE's Immelt Sees Potential Gains from Trump's Public-Works Push

General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt sees his company benefiting if President-elect Donald Trump follows through with a plan to boost spending on public works.

"The U.S. has really declined immensely in infrastructure, whether it's grid, ports, roads, I could go down the list,'' GE CEP Jeff Immelt said Tuesday in an interview in San Francisco.

While he cautioned that it's still too early to know what Trump plans to do, he said "there's an opportunity for better infrastructure. If some of that goes into grids, GE would be a beneficiary."

Trump pledged during his campaign to renew the focus on growth in the U.S. and improve the country's infrastructure, while questioning the benefits of foreign trade deals. GE, which remains a strong advocate of global economic ties, will stick to its strategy of local manufacturing in markets across the world, Immelt said.

"When we globalize, it really today is about accessing new markets so that we can grow in those markets,'' Immelt said. "In the '80s, we took a gas-range plant and shut it down in Louisville and we moved it to Mexico for the purpose of shipping that product back to the U.S. That's not what we do anymore. Most of the things we sell in the U.S. we already make here.''

U.S. Focus

Since the election Nov. 8, construction and industrial companies have rallied on the possible investment in public works. GE has advanced 4.5% since the election, compared with 1.9% gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Immelt said he hasn't met with anyone from Trump's team since the election and that he is taking a "wait-and-see'' approach to possible changes.

While Trump's promises to revive the coal industry have generated questions about the future of renewable energy—a business GE has been investing heavily in—Immelt said his company also has a strong gas-focused power business and offers technology to improve coal-plant operations.

"We're bullish in power, and we believe in a diversified portfolio,'' he said. "Our portfolio matches up with a changing legislative environment. Whatever door opens, we can run through it."

Deal Focus

GE is focusing on global growth as it reorients operations around markets such as energy and aviation while also building out a complementary digital division. The Boston-based company, which is holding a two-day Minds + Machines conference, announced several software acquisitions this week.

GE has also announced other transactions in recent weeks, including deals for 3-D printing companies, the purchase of a maker of turbine blades and an agreement to combine its oil division with Baker Hughes Inc. While GE is putting cash toward buybacks and the dividend, Immelt said the company would continue to look for deals to bolster operations.

"We always like to do different things to grow the company," he said.

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