Apparently, chainsaws were originally invented for medical surgery. They are certainly yielding health benefits for Electrolux, the world's largest maker of household appliances. Its shares roared up 12 per cent on Tuesday after the group announced that it would spin off its outdoor products arm, which also includes lawnmowers, small tractors and diamond tools.

Unusually for such moves, this does not look like an attempt to strengthen the core group by chopping off some withered extremities. The business has market leading positions in several segments, notably chainsaws. With only 22 per cent of sales, outdoor products probably account for a large chunk of Electrolux's meagre free cashflow.

But it has hardly been much of a drain on the attention of Electrolux's management, whose key problem remains household appliances. With competition from south-east Asia set to grow further, speeding up the move of appliance plants to low-cost countries makes sense. There are also some signs that manufacturers might at least have regained enough pricing power to pass higher raw material costs on to consumers.

But with demand in its key US market starting to look more fragile, its recent performance hardly signals sustainable earnings momentum. A new European Union directive shifting responsibility for the recycling of electrical products to producers adds to uncertainty. With the shares up 30 per cent since October, they might well be in for another bleeding this year.

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