General Electric Co. (GE) said Wednesday it has agreed to acquire Ionics Inc. (ION) in an all cash deal valued at about $1.1 billion, plus the assumption of debt.

GE will pay $44 a share for Ionics (search), which supplies water-treatment and water-purification systems to consumer, industrial, municipal, and utility customers. The acquisition price represents a nearly 48 percent premium over Ionics' Tuesday closing price of $29.75.

GE said the merger is subject to the approval of the holders of at least two-thirds of Ionics outstanding common shares, and that certain Ionics holders, representing about 20 percent of the outstanding shares, have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the transaction.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2005.

Ionics will be merged with GE Infrastructure, which includes the company's water and process treatment operations. The division's president and CEO, Bill Woodburn, said, "The combination of Ionics' technology, project experience, and services network with GE's operating and project finance expertise will accelerate the development of technology solutions for the global water purification segment."