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GE Set To Unplug Century-Old Appliance Unit

As part of CEO Jeffrey Immelt's strategy of shedding slower-growing industrial businesses, General Electric has hired Goldman Sachs to run an auction for its century-old appliances business, one of the best-known American consumer brands. GE entered the business in 1907 and boasts of milestones such as introducing the refrigerator, room air-conditioner and toaster oven.

In any deal, it is possible GE could have a continuing stake in the business. As with other transactions involving strong consumer brands, any buyer could continue to use the GE appliance brand names. The auction may provide an opportunity for foreign buyers to take advantage of the weak U.S. dollar and grab the last big remaining asset in the U.S. major-appliance market.

GE is the second-largest U.S. maker by the number of appliances sold, after Whirlpool, which bought rival Maytag in 2006 for $1.7 billion. The GE business has six plants, four of them overseas. The appliance business has also been a training ground for many top executives over the years--including Immelt.

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