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General Electric name consigned to history

GENERAL ELECTRIC Company's 100-year-old name was consigned to history in just 30 minutes yesterday, but not before some shareholders had lamented the change to Marconi plc and the price obtained for the sale of the group's defence arm to British Aerospace.

Resolutions authorising the name change and the BAe deal were passed by 1.25 billion votes to 4.9 million votes - a majority of 99.6 per cent - at an egm in London. Marconi will start trading as a constituent of the FTSE 100 index on 30 November and is to be reclassified as an IT stock, which company executives say will boost its rating.

The name change is being accompanied by some tongue-in-cheek advertising aimed at GEC's namesake, General Electric Company of the US, run by the legendary Jack Welch who announced his retirement earlier this week. The advertisements will say: "It's all yours now Mr Welch."

Some of the 150 GEC shareholders present did not see the funny side, however. One investor challenged the board on the value of the defence sale to BAe, which has fallen from pounds 7.7bn when it was announced to pounds 6.2bn now, largely because BAe is paying in shares.

Another shareholder lamented the fact that the GEC logo would no longer be visible to passengers arriving at Rugby and Stafford railway stations. Another shareholder took the board to task for the absence of sandwiches at the meeting while an Irish investor highlighted the paucity of women on the new board - there is only one, Baroness Lydia Dunn.

Sir Roger Hurn, the chairman, said: "We are creating a global communications systems group so what name could be better than the inventor of the wireless and the father of modern communications?"