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One of the biggest companies in the world is cutting 12,000 jobs.
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General Electric plans to cut 12,000 jobs in its power division as the industrial conglomerate’s new CEO institutes sweeping changes and the company grapples with a decline in business for coal and natural gas products.

The company will cut nearly one in five positions in its GE Power unit. Overall, the layoffs equal about 4% of the company’s workforce of about 295,000 employees at the end of 2016.

Asked where the reductions would occur, GE spokesperson Katie Jackson said they would be “global.” The company said layoffs would span “professional and production employees.”

The move comes as CEO John Flannery, who took over for Jeffrey Immelt in August, is aiming to make GE more efficient. He has already earned a reputation for taking a microscope to GE’s global business to identify opportunities for savings and changes.

GE said the cuts would contribute to its plans to slash $3.5 billion in “structural costs” in 2017 and 2018. That includes a $1 billion cost-cutting plan in 2018 by the GE Power division, which makes gas and steam turbines, electrical transmission products, nuclear plant infrastructure and other items.

“This decision was painful but necessary for GE Power to respond to the disruption in the power market, which is driving significantly lower volumes in products and services,” GE Power CEO Russell Stokes said in a statement. “Power will remain a work in progress in 2018. We expect market challenges to continue, but this plan will position us for 2019 and beyond.”

More: Who is John Flannery, GE’s next CEO?

More: GE announces broad restructuring, to keep health care, aviation, and energy units

More: General Electric slashes dividend by 50% as new CEO tries to turnaround conglomerate

The company said coal and gas product sales are down because of “overcapacity,” lower usage, growth in renewable energy and other factors.

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John Flannery was named chairman and CEO of GE.
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The cuts come as Flannery is slimming down one of America’s most legendarily sprawling companies — a giant once known for wide-ranging businesses such as NBC, light bulbs and corporate lending.

Under Immelt, the company had already started getting smaller, having dramatically reduced its GE Finance division and sold the broadcasting division unit, appliances division and other assets. One exception was the company’s recent acquisition of oil services firm Baker Hughes.

But Flannery has accelerated the pace of change, including by recently reducing the company’s vaunted dividend.

“We’ve done an exhaustive review of the business,” he told analysts in November. “I knew a lot about the company obviously from 30 years in it, but we have really gone to the floorboards on the operations of the company. … Now we have to implement.”

In the GE Power division, he spotted trouble.

“We have a challenge in our Power business, and that is something we have to resolve,” Flannery said, acknowledging “we did a poor job running that business.”

Moody’s Investor Service analyst Rene Lipsch said in a note that the move “illustrates the severity of the challenges that GE faces in its Power segment, and the imperative to align its operations with the current demand environment for gas- and coal-fired power plant equipment and services.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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