Haier Group, the world’s biggest appliance maker, is buying General Electric Co.’s appliance business for USD 5.4 billion to expand its global presence.

The acquisition announced on Friday comes as Haier tries to shed its image as a low-cost brand and move into premium market segments. GE is shifting emphasis from traditional businesses to higher-technology, higher-profit areas such as medical equipment.

The two companies said they also agreed to form a strategic partnership to cooperate in areas such as the Internet, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Haier, headquartered in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, reported 2014 revenue of USD 32.6 billion. It said the GE acquisition would be carried out by its unit Qingdao Haier Co., Ltd., a publicly traded entity of which Haier owns 41 per cent.

GE Appliances reported USD 5.9 billion in 2014 revenue.

It has 12,000 employees, 96 per cent of them in the United States.

"This strategic alliance provides a new starting point for both Haier and GE and I am confident that this partnership will deliver enhanced value to the stakeholders of both companies," said the Haier Group chairman, Zhang Ruimin, in a statement.