Shedding the appliances brand would be a symbolically significant move for the Fairfield, Conn., company. GE entered the business in 1907 and boasts of milestones such as introducing the refrigerator, room air-conditioner and toaster oven.
But because the unit is now a relatively small part of the company, a sale might not satisfy investors who are pressing Mr. Immelt to improve GE’s sluggish performance. Last month, GE reported an unexpected 5.9% drop in first-quarter net income and lowered its earnings forecast for the year, only weeks after issuing sunnier projections. The move prompted the biggest one-day selloff in GE shares in more than 20 years.
GE’s shares finished Wednesday at $32.51 each in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, putting them near levels they traded at in 1999.
Ouch! So who’s going to buy the fridge division?
GE has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to run an auction for the appliances unit. It’s unclear who might be interested in bidding this early in the process. But possible buyers for the division include appliance makers BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH of Germany and Haier Group of China, bankers said. Private-equity firms and GE’s Mexican partner, Controladora Mabe SA, could also be interested, they said.
Siemens? SIEMENS? My GE fridge (the one in the garage that actually works unlike my overpriced SubZero) is now going to be made by Siemens? Well, I’ve never owned any Siemens appliances, except for an old model of their GigaSet cordless phone, which worked quite well.