At General Electrics annual meeting in Greenville, S.C., in late April, Jeffrey Immelt, the companys CEO and chairman, had to deal with some contentious issues. Shareholders complained that GE was manufacturing its light bulbs offshore instead of in the United States. A conservative group pressed GE to stop giving charitable donations to groups connected with the Rev.
Jesse Jackson. And some GE pensioners were less than happy with their retirement payouts.
But the overriding concern at Greenville was the companys stock performance.
Since Immelt took over from John (Jack) Welch in 2001, GE shares have flatlined, dropping 7% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has shot up 35%. More recently, GE shares were down 5.6% in 2006 while the Standard & Poors 500 Index climbed 4.7%. "Is it frustrating? Sure it is, but the thing investors will always respond to is consistent earnings growth," Immelt said just before the meeting.