BEIJING General Electric Co (GE.N) is moving its global X-ray headquarters to China from the United States as part of the largest U.S. conglomerate's overall drive to boost its presence in big emerging markets.
The move reflects GE's overall drive to shift more of its top executives -- including Vice Chairman John Rice, who this year relocated to Hong Kong -- closer to fast-growing Asian markets.
Anne LeGrand, vice president and general manager at GE Healthcare Global X-Ray, is relocating to Beijing from Waukesha, Wisconsin, along with several executives, including the chief financial officer and chief marketing officer, LeGrand said at a briefing in the Chinese capital on Monday.
Those moves will be complete by the end of August, and other staff will be added in the future, LeGrand said.
"I am keeping a globally distributed executive team," she said, with basic radiology and fluoroscopy to be based in Beijing, the bone mineral density business in Wisconsin, and mammography in Buc, outside Paris, France.
Other than the executives who are moving, the changes will not lead to any job cuts at GE's current Wisconsin X-ray headquarters, said spokesman Ben Fox. GE's X-ray arm employs about 820 people worldwide, 150 of whom work in Wisconsin.
GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt, who serves as a top adviser to the Obama administration on job creation, told reporters earlier this month that given the nation's lingering high unemployment, big U.S. companies will be held "accountable" by the public for where they hire people. But with the company expecting to generate 60 percent of its sales outside the United States this year, GE plans to continue adding jobs overseas, he said.
When the company reported better-than-expected profit growth on Friday, Immelt noted that orders in China had risen 32 percent in the second quarter, and in India by an even more dramatic 91 percent. Both nations outperformed the company's overall 24 percent rise in orders.
FOCUS ON PRODUCT DESIGN
GE Healthcare plans to develop at least 20 new products in coming years, mostly in primary care, and will include ultrasound, patient monitoring and anesthesia machines, LeGrand said. These products will be developed for the China market, but have the potential to be exported to emerging markets.
Digital X-ray products that GE developed in China have already been sold in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, LeGrand said.
"This is the first time a global product company is moving a headquarters to China," said Rachel Duan, president and chief executive of GE Healthcare China.
"GE is continuing to expand its global footprint," she said. "As the company is going more global, it's important to be closer to our markets."
While the company has focused on the high end of the market, it is expanding to meet demand for primary care as well, Duan said.
In that vein, GE is building what it calls a customer innovation center in Chengdu, central China, one of six such centers in China that Immelt announced in Beijing late last year.
The Chengdu facility will be GE's lead R&D center for X-ray technology in China and has hired 65 engineers to work there, Duan said.
The number of employees at the Chengdu center will more than double within a year, she said.
GE Healthcare has been developing medical devices and other products for the Chinese market for more than 30 years, according to the company.
(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones, additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Matthew Lewis)