Timeline — from Thomas Edison to the unwinding of GE Capital

1890 — Four companies representing inventor Thomas Edison’s interests merge to form the Edison General Electric Company.

1932 — GE Credit Corporation begins to offer credit to customers to buy General Electric appliances.

1981 — Under chief executive Jack Welch, GE Capital begins a dramatic ascent. Between 1986 and 1993 profits double to $1.5bn and assets to $155bn. GE Capital becomes the world’s largest car-leasing company, the world’s largest ship container leasing company and the biggest private mortgage insurer.

2004 — GE Capital buys Dillard’s credit card unit for $1.25bn.

2008 — As the credit markets seize up, GE announces its first fall in quarterly profits for five years. In September, chief executive Jeff Immelt calls Henry Paulson, the then Treasury secretary, to say GE “was finding it very difficult to sell its commercial paper for any term longer than overnight”.

2011 — GE buys MetLife Bank, an online retail banking arm.

2013 — Mr Immelt sets a target that GE Capital should provide no more than 30 per cent of group earnings.

2014 — GE Capital has $7bn of net income, assets of $499bn and more than 35,000 employees. It operates in 40 countries. In the US, GE takes Synchrony Financial, its store credit card arm, public in a $2.88bn initial public offering.

2015 — Mr Immelt announces plans to sell the bulk of GE Capital over the next two years and return the company to its manufacturing roots.

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