General Electric Co. chief executive Jeffrey Immelt says the company is considering spinning off its appliances unit instead of selling it.

The timing of a possible sale comes after a difficult economic environment, he told the Wall Street Journal.

It may really render itself to a spin, Immelt said at an electrical-products conference in Florida. The spin option might give us the opportunity to do it in an investor-friendly way.

He said that most of the potential buyers are outside of the U.S. He added that the sale or spin-offcould take place early next year, although he said it could happen faster.

Immelt also reiterated the company's full-year outlook. It expects to earn $2.20 to $2.30 per share from continuing operations.

Shares of GE fell 73 cents, or 2.30 percent, to $30.99.