As General Electric seeks to cut its debt load, the company is now selling off its BioPharma business.

Boston-based GE said Monday that it would sell the segment to Washington-based conglomerate Danaher Corp. for $21.4 billion, which includes $21 billion in cash and an assumption by Danaher of certain pension liabilities. GE said it planned to use the money to reduce its leverage and strengthen its balance sheet.

Shares of GE opened up more than 13 percent on the New York Stock Exchange following the news Monday. Shares of Danaher were up more than 9 percent.

The BioPharma business is part of GE Life Sciences and is expected to generate about $3.2 billion in sales this year, compared with about $3 billion in 2018. It includes instruments, supplies and software for the purpose of research, discovery, process development and manufacturing workflows of biopharmaceutical drugs. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical diagnostics business will remain under the GE Healthcare portfolio. That business includes contrast media and molecular imaging supplies for radiology and, according to GE, is highly complementary to its medical imaging business.

GE Life Sciences generated about $3.5 billion in sales in the first nine months of 2018, compared with about $3.27 billion during the comparable period the year before, according to GE’s third quarter earnings filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Excluding BioPharma, GE Healthcare had sales of about $17 billion in 2018.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. Danaher said the segment would be set up as a standalone company within its own $6.5 billion life sciences business. That business also includes Pall, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, SCIEX, Leica Microsystems, Molecular Devices, Phenomenex and IDT.

While among the most iconic of American companies, GE has lately struggled. It currently carries a substantial debt load – nearly $115 billion in the first nine months of 2018, down from nearly $135 billion for all of 2017, according to the third-quarter earnings. In October, it fired CEO John Flannery, replacing him with Lawrence Culp, himself the former CEO of Danaher. It also had to take a write-down on its power business, which forced it to take a $23 billion charge and miss its 2018 guidance. In response, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded GE’s debt to BBB+ from its previous A rating, while Moody’s and Fitch placed the conglomerate under review.

Photo: alexsl, Getty Images

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