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General Electric Co. (GE)’s health-care unit, the world’s biggest maker of medical-imaging machines, is moving the headquarters of its 115-year-old X-ray business to Beijing.  The headquarters will move from Waukesha, Wisconsin, amid a broader parent-company plan to invest about $2 billion across China, including opening six “customer innovation” and development centers. The move follows the introduction earlier this year of GE Healthcare’s “Spring Wind” initiative to develop and distribute medical products and services in China, GE said in a statement today. More than 20 percent of the X-ray unit’s new products will be developed in China.

GE Healthcare, also the world’s biggest maker of magnetic resonance imaging and cardiac tomography scanners, got about $1.1 billion of its $16.9 billion in sales from China last year.

The X-ray business, whose financial results aren’t reported separately by GE, will hire 65 new engineers and support staff at a new Chengdu facility. GE has hired “a large number” of engineers who are in training.
GE anticipates that China will be GE Healthcare’s most important growth market.  The company wants to keep its leading position in providing medical devices targeted at higher-end Chinese customers, and also break into China’s growing market for primary health care, a key goal of the Chinese government’s health-care reform plans.

About 60,000 people work at GE Healthcare globally, including 820 in the X-ray business. Of health-care employees, more than 5,000 are in China, including about 2,000 sales representatives. (Bloomberg, 7/25/2011)