GE calls off Electrolux appliance deal amid U.S. antitrust fight

STOCKHOLM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - General Electric on Monday walked away from a $3.3 billion agreement to sell its appliances business to Sweden’s Electrolux, terminating the deal after months of opposition from U.S. antitrust regulators.

GE GE.N said it would pursue other suitors for its century-old appliance unit but declined to say who they might be.

“The appliances business is performing well and GE will continue to run the business while it pursues a sale,” the company said in a statement.

Shares of Electrolux, which sought to double its U.S. sales with the purchase, tumbled on the news, and the company said it will now focus on developing existing brands such as Frigidaire, Kenmore and Tappan and could look at other acquisitions.

The U.S. Justice Department had filed a lawsuit in July asking a judge to stop the deal, arguing that it would push appliance prices up by 5 percent. Electrolux, GE and larger competitor Whirlpool WHR.N make up more than 90 percent of major kitchen appliances sold to homebuilders, according to the lawsuit.

“This deal was bad for the millions of consumers who buy cooking appliances every year. Electrolux and General Electric could not overcome that reality at trial,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Gelfand of the department’s Antitrust Division.

This has been a year of megadeals but also a year of aggressive deals killed by equally aggressive U.S. antitrust authorities.

Dead deals include Comcast's CMCSA.O bid to buy Time Warner Cable TWC.N, Sysco's SYY.N plan to buy US Foods, Thai Union's plan to buy Bumble Bee tuna and Applied Materials' AMAT.O scrapped plan to merge with Tokyo Electron 8035.T.

More mergers are under review including two insurance deals, Aetna's AET.N deal for Humana HUM.N and Anthem's ANTM.N planned merger with Cigna CI.N, along with a deal between Baker Hughes BHI.N and Halliburton HAL.N and Staples' SPLS.O merger with Office Depot ODP.O.

A Sears employee walks past a display of General Electric appliances in Schaumburg, Illinois, in this file photo from September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young/Files

Electrolux shares fell 13.4 percent to 207 Swedish crowns, the biggest fall by a European blue-chip stock on Monday. They earlier touched a 14-month low of 203.2 crowns. GE closed 0.4 percent lower at $30.37.


The acquisition of GE’s appliance business would have seen Electrolux leapfrog Whirlpool as the world’s biggest appliances maker, strengthening its position in North and South America.

“We’re disappointed but we’re certainly not defeated,” Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin told a conference call.

He said the firm would “continue to have a strong, robust M&A (mergers and acquisitions) process”, without elaborating.

Some analysts suggested McLaughlin might decide to leave in the face of the deal collapse.

“I’m not sure how much he will enjoy staying on now that what might have been his last deal won’t go through,” Handelsbanken Capital Markets’ Karri Rinta said.

With his family having returned to the United States several years ago, speculation has been rife McLoughlin, who has been CEO for almost five years and imported manufacturing practices from the auto industry to boost profitability, could soon leave.

McLoughlin said in a statement he remained committed to Electrolux and would continue as CEO.

In 2014, Electrolux made around 33 percent of its 112 billion crowns ($13.2 billion) of sales in North America against around 35 percent in Europe.

Before the GE deal was announced, Electrolux had been looking to buy into growth in emerging markets, a strategy it may now revisit.

The Swedish firm said GE had asked it pay out a termination fee of $175 million that was part of the transaction agreement.

It said fourth-quarter results would include about 175 million crowns of transaction and integration costs and would be hit by about 225 million crowns of costs arising from a bridge facility intended to finance the deal.

Additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm, Olof Swahnberg, Violette Goarant Johan Sennero,; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Meredith Mazzilli