UPDATE 1-GE begins divestment of Baker Hughes with $2.7 bln share sale

(Reuters) – General Electric Co (GE) on Wednesday said it plans to reduce its ownership in oil and gas company Baker Hughes A GE Co to 38.4% from 50.4% at June-end, and aims to raise $2.7 billion in the process. The U.S. conglomerate, which will lose majority control of Baker Hughes, said it would raise the amount through a public offering of 115 million Baker Hughes Class A shares priced at $21.50 each, and through a private sale of $250 million Class B Baker Hughes shares to the oilfield services provider. “Combined net proceeds of the offering and the repurchase will be approximately $2.7 billion, or approximately $3.0 billion assuming full exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares in the offering,” GE said in a statement. General Electric said it expects to continue divesting the remainder of its holding in Baker Hughes over time. In a separate statement, Baker Hughes said it expects the public offering of its Class A shares to close on Sept. 16, and that underwriters will have 30 days to purchase up to an additional 17.25 million shares from the selling stockholders. GE’s representation on Baker Hughes’ board will be reduced from five members to one, with John Rice expected to stay on the board, the companies said. GE had long planned to sell down its stake in Baker Hughes. But the issue came under scrutiny last month when Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos issued a lengthy report that alleged in part that GE was improperly counting Baker Hughes’ income, capital and cash in GE’s financial statements. GE has maintained its accounting was appropriate.

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