U.S. companies working to put their best foot forward in a slow economy seem more interested in unloading business units. U.S. divestitures grew 3% last year and the value of those deals increased 12%, according to Ernst and Young, and 30% of the companies it surveyed last fall said they planned a divestiture over the coming year.

Often in a sluggish economy, companies aim to boost their growth with acquisitions and try to divest to free up capital to make acquisitions, notes Paul Hammes, Americas leader of divestiture advisory services at Ernst & Young, pictured at the left.

Acquisitions can also end up generating divestitures, says Russ Warren, a senior vice president at EdgePoint Capital Advisors in Cleveland, because strategic buyers of good-sized companies can often create more value by divesting parts of the business they don't need.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.