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GE Confirms Plans To Exit Appliance Business

Industrial conglomerate said in a statement the move is part of an ongoing plan to exit 'slower growth and more volatile businesses.'

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) – General Electric Co. said Friday that it plans to sell or spin off its iconic appliance business, which has provided refrigerators, air conditioners and ovens for millions of U.S. homes.

The industrial conglomerate said in a statement the move is part of an ongoing plan to exit ''slower growth and more volatile businesses.'' GE's 101-year-old appliance business has been hit hard by the housing slump and economic slowdown in the U.S.

GE says its Louisville, Ky.-based appliance division generates most of its revenue in the U.S., leaving its results dependent on ''the rise and fall of a single market.''

The company is planning a strategic review that could result in an outright sale of GE Appliances, a strategic partnership or a spin-off to shareholders.

''This review is consistent with the strategy we have been executing to transform our portfolio for long-term growth, '' GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said. ''Since 2003 we have exited slower growth and more volatile businesses, generating $52 billion in gross proceeds from dispositions. These proceeds have been reinvested into a transformed portfolio of faster growth, higher margin businesses, stock buybacks and other restructuring activities.''

Last year, GE shed its underperforming plastics business by selling it to a Saudi Arabian company for $11.6 billion.

The announcement comes two days after media reports first surfaced that GE was planning to auction off the appliance division.

Analysts estimate sales in the appliance business, which posted revenue of $7 billion last year, are likely to decline between 10 percent and 12 percent this year. That stems from weak consumer spending and a drop in home improvement sales and residential construction.

Some have suggested a sale price in the low- to mid-$6 billion range.

GE shares rose 10 cents to $32.47 in premarket trading from a $32.37 close Thursday. The stock had its worst day in decades last month after the company reported a smaller-than-expected first-quarter profit and lowered its outlook for the full year.

That led to pressure to ramp up the pace of asset sales, with the appliance business and the NBC Universal media business among the top targets of speculation.

GE Appliances is a $7.2 billion business and employs about 13,000 people worldwide.

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