General Electric Co. is preparing to sell or divest itself of its century-old appliances business, one of the best-known American consumer brands, as Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt seeks to revive his weakened conglomerate, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site late Wednesday.
GE could receive between $5 billion and $8 billion from a sale of the business, according to people familiar with the matter. A sale would come as the company faces pressure to trim a portfolio that ranges from credit cards to aircraft engines to television broadcasting, following a disappointing first-quarter earnings report.
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.