October 21, 2015 / 5:00 PM / 2 years ago

Electrolux offers to settle U.S. antitrust fight over appliance deal

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - AB Electrolux has offered to settle its fight with the Justice Department over whether it will be allowed to buy General Electric's appliance business, but the U.S. Justice Department's initial reaction to the offer was negative.

Electrolux gave an offer to the Justice Department on Tuesday, said Electrolux lawyer John Majoras in a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday. Majoras said that Electrolux was working with third parties who may be interested in buying divested assets but did not say which assets those were.

Justice Department lawyer Ethan Glass did not reject the settlement but said it looked similar to one that the government received in June. "We're on Earth and they're on Mars," he said, indicating that their positions were far apart.

Majoras said that it was a different offer than in June, and that the two sides had meetings and planned to discuss it.

District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who will decide if it is appropriate to stop the proposed acquisition, urged the parties to reach an agreement. "I'd be shocked if it was the same offer," he said.

Glass responded: "I assure you we take their settlement offer seriously."

The United States asked a federal court in July to stop Electrolux, which makes Frigidaire, Kenmore and Tappan appliances, from buying GE's appliance business for $3.3 billion.

The Justice Department argued that Electrolux and GE, along with Whirlpool Corp, make 90 percent of the stoves and ovens sold to big builders and property managers in the United States. The department said the proposed deal violates U.S. antitrust law, which is designed to stop mergers that would raise prices for consumers.

Electrolux maintains that companies such as Samsung and LG Electronics are moving into the U.S. market for appliances, diluting its market power.

The case is United States v AB Electrolux and General Electric Co, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 15-1039. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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