BOSTON - Shares of Rockwell Automation Inc rose as much as 3.6 percent to a new 52-week high on Monday after a J.P. Morgan analyst said the maker of factory-control systems could be a good fit within General Electric Co's industrial lineup.
Rockwell Automation shares were up 1 percent to $48.10 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, after earlier hitting $49.25, their highest level since August 2008.
J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen Tusa wrote in a note to clients that as GE revamps its portfolio -- including planning to sell a majority stake in its NBC Universal media business and cutting back its finance operation -- the largest U.S. conglomerate could opt to boost its presence in automation.
However, Tusa said any deal for GE to buy Rockwell would most likely bring criticism from bears on both stocks.
Shares of Milwaukee-based Rockwell have risen 68 percent over the past year, sharply outpacing the 24 percent rise of the Standard & Poor's capital goods index .GSPIC.
The company has repeatedly said it has no interest in selling.
The highest value for Rockwell Automation shareholders will be realized by Rockwell Automation remaining an independent company, said a Rockwell spokesman, John Bernaden.
A GE spokeswoman declined to comment.
Rockwell's competitors include Germany's Siemens AG and Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
GE shares were up 8 cents at $16.00 on the NYSE.
GE last month agreed to sell a majority stake in its NBC Universal media business to No. 1 U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp. To clear the way for that deal, it agreed to buy French media company Vivendi SA's 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. (Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by John Wallace)