NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric (GE) - Get Report says it will fight a federal lawsuit attempting to block the $3.3 billion sale of its appliance business to Electrolux, a deal the government contends would ultimately force families to pay more for big purchases like refrigerators and stoves.
"Our goal remains to close the deal this year," the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said in an e-mail. "GE continues to believe that GE Appliances' customers, consumers and employees will benefit from Electrolux's commitment to the appliance business."
The sale, originally announced in September, is one piece of CEO Jeffrey Immelt's plan to reshape the company founded by Thomas Edison into an infrastructure and technology provider. Since taking over in 2001, Immelt has exited businesses from plastics to NBC Universal and insurance and announced this year he would spin off most of the lucrative GE Capital finance unit.
Although GE had agreed that Electrolux would continue to use the GE Appliances brand, the deal would mean the company no longer produced some of the products that had made it a household name.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Electrolux North America (ELUXY) owns the Frigidaire brand and has major appliance sales in the U.S. of about $2.6 billion a year, prompting the Justice Department's concern that the deal would create a duopoly, pushing up costs for buyers in the $4 billion-a-year cooking appliance market.
It "would leave millions of Americans vulnerable to price increases for ranges, cooktops and wall ovens, products that serve an important role in family life and represent large purchases for many households," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Leslie C. Overton said in a statement. The lawsuit was filed by the department's Antitrust Division in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
GE will "vigorously defend" the deal as "pro-competitive" and beneficial to consumers, the company said in its statement. "GE Appliances' customers, consumers and employees will benefit from Electrolux's commitment to the appliance business and its ability to compete with global competitors."