Jeff Immelt, chairman & CEO of GE

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 21, 2001.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Earlier I sat down with GE's new chief executive, Jeff Immelt, and I asked him what he makes of Wall Street right now.


JEFF IMMELT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, GENERAL ELECTRIC: It's just unprecedented uncertainty. It's market that was probably fragile before this happened, and it just has added layer after layer of uncertainty: you know, on the airline industries or insurance or what's going to be the impact on unemployment. And it's just a time I think right now where people need to kind of step back, study the data they have, think about the things that might be impacted because of this and think about the things that won't be impacted because of this change, and march, and march on.

And so, that's what I tried to do this morning, and I think that's what investors need to do right now.

CAVUTO: But the environment is very skittish. Over a thousand points this week. Who knows what? Is that overdone? Is that an oversold market to you? What?

IMMELT: You know, again, in so far as the market should reflect performance of companies, both today and in the future, I think it's overdone. I mean, look, we already were in what I would call an industrial recession before this hit. This may prolong it or make it slightly deeper, but we were already dealing on that and planning with that.

CAVUTO: Right.

IMMELT: There are sectors of the economy which really don't get impacted by this, necessarily: power generation, medical, health care. Lots of financial services keep going forward.

We've got to watch unemployment and see what impact that has on consumer confidence.

But you know, my point, Neil, is, look, it didn't change, you know, necessarily the economy we saw before, and there are certain sectors that just aren't going to be as impacted as others specifically will, like airlines.

So there's lots of...

CAVUTO: But the airlines are where you have big exposure, right?

IMMELT: But again, if you think about the airlines in terms of a long-term view, OK, with the airlines, I think there is going to be an airline industry in the future. I'm not diminishing the issues. I think it's going to change, but the government's going to help and there is going to be an airlines...

CAVUTO: So this rescue package, had they not gotten that, you would have been more worried?

IMMELT: But again, Neil, it's got to happen. We're going to have an airline industry. The airline industry has always been about assets. You know, you have long-term mobile assets called planes that have 30-year life. You can make it through at this location like this. In the last, probably since deregulation, there's been hundreds of bankruptcies. The landscape has changed lots of different times. And people know how to work through these things together.

So do I think the airline industry is going to change forever because of this? I think probably, but I think it's capable of making it through.

CAVUTO: But there were all sorts of nasty rumors back and forth that GE was going to get these planes back because the airlines are going to go belly-up.

IMMELT: Look, you know, I look at the number of assets we have and aircraft leasing that aren't in current production, that aren't new production planes, it's less than 3 percent.

CAVUTO: So the exposure was not as pronounced?

IMMELT: No, the exposure is not as pronounced. Again why? Because we've known this industry. We've been leasing planes for 30 years. We've been in the industry since its, you know, inception. We know this industry. We knew we were on a down-cycle already. We've always tried to keep a younger fleet than the industry average. The average age of a GE plane is eight years. The industry is 13.

Will it hit us? Yeah, and I tried to frame that today. But it's not something we can't manage.

CAVUTO: But what about the media side? NBC? Now, apparently, you have a financial channel and a news channel. Now, are they vulnerable now?

IMMELT: Look, I think we went through a couple of days where we didn't have any ads at all.

CAVUTO: Right.

IMMELT: We were already in a recession in broadcasting, last year.


IMMELT: But if you look at the orders we've had, if you track the orders of NBC post 9/11 to where they were pre 9/11, they're about up to the same rate they were before the incident. Now...

CAVUTO: But you lost that week?

IMMELT: ... did I like -- yeah, and we reflected that. We reflected the economic impact. But there is going to be a broadcasting industry. People are going to want to get their brands out as time goes on. It's even more important to sell when things are slow than it is when things are high.

I just think, Neil, the job of business and the job of leaders right now is to deal with issues and understand them. We're going to be in this thing.

CAVUTO: But do you feel like Custer? I mean, no sooner do you take over...

IMMELT: Listen...

CAVUTO: ... that everything hits the fan.

IMMELT: The one thing I can tell you in the last weeks, I haven't thought about myself once.


IMMELT: I haven't had time. You know, we dealt with the insurance issue last week. We've done round-robins with all our businesses this week. I wouldn't have stood up today unless I had a pretty good sense of where I'm going.

CAVUTO: But unlike a lot of CEOs that take over in the middle of a slowdown, which is hard enough, then you`re dealing with this worldwide debacle besides.

IMMELT: Again, I've got tremendous advantages. I've got a great company, diversified with tremendous people. You can't predict the future at any time. So if you have great people, great processes and a diversified company, that's a big strength. The other strength is I'm 45 years old. OK, this instant...

CAVUTO: Is that all you are?

IMMELT: ... this company is going to be around a long time. I've got a 110-year company. I'm thinking about it for the long term. We're going to take the actions we need to take and we're going to march on.

CAVUTO: The mood right now in the country, you touched on it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the market mood, the economic mood, the panic mood, the somber mood, all very understandable.


CAVUTO: But the president kind of said last night, if we don't get out of that relatively soon, it's self-defeating. Do you agree?

IMMELT: Totally. I think that the president set the tone last night: We're back to work. Now, our aircraft engines business is going to be hit, but we're in that business for the long term. We're going to be an even better business coming through this...

CAVUTO: And still a double-digit business? Still a double-digit...

IMMELT: And we're back to work. We are back to work.

Now, look, our airline-oriented businesses, I painted today...

CAVUTO: Right.

IMMELT: ... are going to have down earnings next year. But we're going to get through it, and we're going to paint a better business. We're going to have a better business.

CAVUTO: Finally, just the mood nationally, do you think right now that it's incumbent upon market leaders, corporate leaders like yourself to go out there, to go out front like some of the big names have, you know, the Warren Buffetts, and all just say, buy stock? Buy, buy?

IMMELT: Look, look, I personally, OK, bought GE. I went from most of my portfolio being GE to all of it being GE. Now is the time to bet on fundamentals. This was a great company before September 11th. We dealt with an insurance issue in a productive way with our eyes wide-open. We're going to deal with an airline issue with our eyes wide-open. The fundamentals are going to work themselves out.

I think it's nutty, but look, we're in it for the long term. We're going to continue to perform, we're going to continue to deal with every environment we get in and do better than other people. The rest will take care of itself.

CAVUTO: All right, Jeff Immelt.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2001 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2001 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.