After six months and $5.6 billion, the appliance division of General Electric officially belongs to Chinese manufacturer Haier, the companies said at a press conference Monday.
Haier's purchase of GE's Louisville, Kentucky-based appliance division is an assertive attempt to build a stronger presence in the US appliance market. Haier, which is based in Qingdao, China, is the world's leading appliance manufacturer, but the company only holds 1.1 percent of the US appliance market (US customers might be familiar with the brand's refrigerators, air conditioners or rolling R2D2 mini-fridge). Meanwhile, GE Appliances claims nearly 14 percent of the same market.
For many US shoppers, the GE brand is synonymous with household appliances like refrigerators and ovens. But the multibillion-dollar sale to Haier gives GE the chance to rid itself of those consumer-facing appliances to focus on more lucrative industrial manufacturing (think jet engines, industrial power systems and locomotives).
In the short term, people won't see much of a change as a result of the acquisition, said Chip Blankenship, president and CEO of GE Appliances. The GE name will still appear on appliances, and customers will still receive the same support.
"We'd like (customers) to be confident that we stand behind our products as we always have," Blankenship said.
GE Appliances stated in a news release the sale will generate an after-tax gain of approximately $0.20 per share, but the company expects restructuring to offset those gains. When asked about potential layoffs of GE Appliances employees, Blankenship said, "we don't anticipate any change."
There's been talk of GE selling its appliance division for at least eight years. Sweden-based Electrolux came close to buying GE Appliances for $3.3 billion in 2014, but the US Department of Justice objected to the deal last year on the grounds that a merger of two leading manufacturers of cooktops, ranges and wall ovens would reduce competition and options for consumers. GE quickly rebounded with the announcement that it would sell to Haier in January.
Haier was initially set to buy GE Appliances for $5.4 billion, but the price increased by about $200 million because of "increased working capital in the business," according to GE. GE Appliances currently has 12,000 employees that produce appliances out of Louisville and facilities in Indiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
The Haier acquisition also includes GE's FirstBuild microfactory, a collaborative inventive space that has produced small appliances such as the Opal Nugget Ice maker and the Paragon Induction Cooktop.