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Exclusive: GE seeks buyer for fuel dispenser unit - sources

A GE logo is seen in a store in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. GE will release its third quarter earnings on Friday. REUTERS/Lu
A GE logo is seen in a store in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. GE will release its third quarter earnings on Friday. REUTERS/Lu

By Soyoung Kim

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Electric Co is preparing to sell its energy unit that makes fuel dispensers in a deal that is expected to fetch more than $500 million, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The diversified conglomerate has recently contacted private equity firms and other parties to gauge their interest in buying its Wayne subsidiary, part of GE Energy, the people said.

Credit Suisse Group is advising GE on the process, the people said, asking not to be named because the sale plans are confidential.

Wayne was part of Dresser Inc, the energy infrastructure company that GE bought in 2010 for $3 billion. That deal marked its largest acquisition since the financial crisis and heralded a series of takeovers by GE in the energy space in following years.

The Wayne unit, based in Austin, Texas, manufacturers fuel dispensers for petroleum retailers and commercial fleets as well as compressed natural gas equipment.

Representatives for GE and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Generally, GE is investing more in its energy businesses as the conglomerate seeks to become a dominant supplier of equipment and services to oil, natural gas and alternative power companies. However, the fuel dispenser business is at the low-end of GE's energy offerings and is not a core interest.

In a sign of its focus on the oil and gas sector, GE last year bought oilfield pump maker Lufkin for about $3 billion. Earlier this week, GE Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt announced plans for the company to spend an additional $10 billion through 2020 to boost research on complex energy projects.

GE's oil and gas segment posted an 11 percent increase in revenue last year to nearly $17 billion, while the segment's profit rose 13 percent to $2.2 billion.

The investment in its energy businesses is part of GE's overall increasing focus on its industrial businesses as it reduces exposure to the financial sector.

To slim down its GE Capital division, the company is expected by the end of next month to file for an initial public offering for up to 20 percent of its North American retail finance business, part of a two-stage process to split off the business.

GE's planned divestiture of Wayne is yet another example of diversified conglomerates trying to sell off non-core assets in an effort to focus on key areas and deploy capital elsewhere.

Private equity, meanwhile, has shown a strong appetite for units being carved out of companies, seeking to avoid frothy auctions for publicly listed companies as markets rallied.

Earlier this month, Illinois Tool Works Inc agreed to sell its industrial packaging unit to private equity firm Carlyle Group LP for $3.2 billion.

Another buyout firm, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, struck a $1.8 billion deal to buy the water technology unit of U.S. chemical manufacturer Ashland Inc last week.

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim in New York, additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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