General Electric plans to auction off its appliances business for as much as $8 billion, ending the company's long association with so-called "white goods," the Wall Street Journal reported.
GE , which also owns CNBC, has hired Goldman Sachs Group to run an auction for the appliances, unit, which could fetch between $5 billion and $8 billion, sources told the Journal.
With appliance sales getting hit by the slowing U.S. economy and the housing bust, jettisoning the business could help GE reach its long-term goal of boosting profits by at least 10% annually, the Journal said.
A sale could also help appease critics who are calling for a more dramatic restructuring of the 120-year-old company, a chorus that grew noisier after GE's surprise first-quarter earnings disappointment and forecast reduction last month, the Journal said.
The appliance outfit consists of refrigerators, freezers, electric and gas ranges, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, microwave ovens and air conditioners, sold under brands including GE Profile and Hotpoint, according to the company's Web site.
GE entered the business in 1907 and boasts of milestones such as introducing the first room air-conditioner in 1930.
Last month, GE stunned Wall Street by reporting a surprise drop in first-quarter earnings and lowered its forecast for the rest of the year.
In an interview on CNBC, CEO Jeff Immelt blamedthe sudden collapse of Bear Stearns and the worsening credit crunch for GE's earnings surprise. He also described the poor results as a "bump in the road," though the company lowered its earnings outlook for the entire year.