Saudis buy GE plastics for $11.6B

General Electric announces sale to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. for unit it has been shopping since last year.

NEW YORK ( -- General Electric announced early Monday it would sell its plastics business to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. in an $11.6 billion deal.

GE (Charts, Fortune 500) has been shopping the unit for some time, and the price and buyer were not a surprise, having earlier appeared in published reports.

"This sale is the right move at the right time for GE share owners," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt. "We received a good price from a respected global company in a highly competitive bidding process. We will use the proceeds to fund the stock buyback and strengthen the company through restructuring."

GE said its net proceeds from the sale would be about $9 billion. It said the profits from the sale will allow it to increase its share repurchase plans to between $7 billion to $8 billion, up from the $6 billion it had previously announced plans to repurchase.

Shares of Dow component GE were up 15 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $37.10 at the open of trading Monday following the pre-market announcement. Shares gained 43 cents, or 1.2 percent in trading Friday after reports that the sale was close.

The price topped earlier estimates of a sales price $8 billion to $10 billion made by analysts surveyed by Reuters.

"I'm glad they got it done, and I'm glad they got more than people were maybe expecting," Peter Klein, senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management, a Cleveland-based company that manages about $20 billion and holds GE shares, told wire service Reuters.

The plastics business has been hurt by the high price of oil, a basic raw material used in the business. GE reported that benzene, a petrochemical used to make plastics, is 32 percent more expensive than a year ago. The company reported a 46 percent decline in segment profits in the first quarter to $121 million, despite only a 3 percent fall in revenue to $1.5 billion.

Plastics saw the biggest percentage decline in profits for any segment at GE, a diversified conglomerate whose businesses included everything from consumer appliances and light bulbs to jet engines and electric turbines, as well as media unit NBC Universal and a large finance arm.

GE competitors include Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV (Charts), Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd (Charts) and Siemens AG (Charts). Top of page