GE Sees Likely Spinoff of Industrial, Appliance Unit

A spinoff would mark the first time in 100 years that GE isn't in the appliance business.

General Electric said July 10 it is likely to spin off its industrial unit including its appliance division as part of planned reorganization. The move would go further than a plan announced two months ago to sell or spin off the portion of that division that makes appliances and consumer products such as lighting systems.

GE, one of the world's largest companies, said it "is continuing to explore all options" for the division "with a primary focus on spinning-off the entire unit.

"As we explored our options for appliances, it became clear that the fastest, most efficient step we could take in completing the transformation of our industrial portfolio would be to focus on a possible spin-off of the entire unit," GE CEO Jeff Immelt said. "This is consistent with the strategy we have been executing to transform the GE portfolio for long-term growth and makes sense for GE shareholders."

GE, which traces its history back to Thomas Edison and the first lightbulbs, launched its first electric toaster in 1905 and an electric range in 1910. But appliances now represent a small portion of GE, one of the world's biggest companies, which produces jet engines, locomotives, water treatment plants and medical equipment. It also has a major finance arm and controls the media-entertainment giant NBC Universal.

The company is organized as five separate businesses, including GE Industrial, which had 2007 revenues of $17.7 billion and 70,000 employees worldwide. The unit makes automation hardware and software, high-speed networking, security and services as well as appliances and lighting.

A spinoff of the unit would take the U.S. conglomerate out of the appliance business for which GE is identified, for the first time in over 100 years.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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