GE: bringing small things to life

GENERALELECTRIC/With talk about a multibillion-dollar deal to sell NBC Universal to Comcast burbling away, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt popped the top on a $250 million venture fund designed to buy stakes in small healthcare technology companies.

“What we’re trying to do is embrace the venture community, try and do a series of early-stage and later-stage type investments,” Immelt said in an interview. “We don’t do everything inside our four walls.”

Competing venture capitalists might consider Immelt’s embrace more of a bear hug. GE is taking a similar approach to the energy industry. It has a stake in A123 Systems, the battery maker that was one of the best-received initial public offerings of the year. Scott Malone, our reporter who interviewed Immelt, notes that taking stakes in smaller companies rather than buying them outright gives GE more flexibility. It gains exposure to a wider array of technologies, any one of which could take off.

“GE is in the midst of a $6 billion drive to revamp its healthcare arm, called ‘Healthymagination,’ that includes rolling out products intended to help hospitals and other health providers cut costs and making investments to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records,” Malone reports.

Might be just cosmetic, but a new name would be a good place to start.

Window opening for clean tech IPOs?

The upcoming initial public offering of A123 Systems could help ease the way for more clean-tech stock offerings, one of the early investors in the battery maker said this week.
The company, which Chrysler has chosento produce lithium-ion batteries for its upcoming electric cars, set an IPO price range of $8 to $9.50 per share, which would raise up to $244 million, based on the 25.7 million shares it plans to sell.
“It will certainly be good for the sector just to get a real exit out there, both from a branding standpoint and from a  financing standpoint,” said Jamie Kiggen, chief investment officer for clean tech ventures at Blackstone Group, who in his previous job at Alliance Bernstein was an early investor in the Watertown, Massachusetts-based battery maker.
“If the IPO window opens up, that helps all of us,” Kiggen said at a Boston conference organized by the Cleantech Group.
A123 first filed its IPO plans with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in August 2008. 
While the IPO market has picked up in recent months after a rough 2008, A123 would be the first U.S. clean tech company to go public since July 2008.