New GE CEO begins, promising 'intense focus' on operations

By Thomas GrytaIndustrialsDow Jones Newswires

John Flannery started his first day as General Electric Co.'s (NYSE:GE) chief executive with a letter to employees, highlighting the company's transformation under its previous leader but saying "now we need an intense focus on running the company well."

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GE is coming off a 16-year run of Jeff Immelt, who moved the company away from struggling and lower-margin businesses toward industrial machines and related technology and services. The stock lagged behind in his tenure, but he navigated challenges such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and financial crisis while pushing into software development.

In his letter Tuesday, Mr. Flannery said he met with 100 investors over the past month and hears them "loud and clear" on their concerns.

"They understand the importance of GE in the world, but they think we are underperforming," he wrote. Investors want improvement on cash flow, margins and cutting costs, he added, and asked GE to simplify the financial metrics it discloses. He is reviewing the company's portfolio and will unveil his plans in November.