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UPDATE 2-GE announces biggest acquisition under CEO Culp

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(Adds details of the deal, background, share price)

By Rajesh Kumar Singh and Abhijith Ganapavaram

Sept 23 (Reuters) - General Electric Co on Thursday announced a $1.45 billion cash deal to acquire ultrasound company BK Medical to bolster its medical imaging business, signaling a shift away from the company's exclusive focus on repairing its balance sheet.

This is the biggest acquisition under Chief Executive Larry Culp, who since taking the reins in 2018 has primarily focused on paying down debt.

After a $30 billion deal in March to merge GE's jet-leasing unit with Ireland's AerCap, Culp said the Boston-based group would look to "play more offense" to grow its industrial business.

Thursday's deal is also aimed at growing GE's footprint in the precision healthcare sector, which is worth tens of billions of dollars and is one of the business priorities under Culp.

GE's shares were up 4.8% at $103.24 in morning trade.

BK Medical, owned by healthcare investment firm Altaris Capital Partners, makes ultrasound systems used by surgeons during procedures to provide real-time visuals.

GE said the acquisition would help the company's $3 billion ultrasound business expand into surgical and therapeutic interventions.

It expects high-single-digit return on its investment in BK Medical by the fifth year. The transaction is expected to close in 2022. (Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)