General Electric's recent moves to divest itself of divisions such as NBC Universal inspired analysts to do some holiday shopping on GE's behalf. One analyst in a letter to investors had a provocative idea for what Plainville, Conn.-based GE could do with the proceeds of the transactions, and stirred up speculation in the process.

JP Morgan analyst Steve Tusa said industrial automation giant Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, would be a fine addition to GE's industrial operations. GE announced in August that it and Japan-based manufacturer Fanuc would dissolve GE Fanuc, their 14-year joint venture in factory automation.

Investors took the suggestion seriously, pushing Rockwell's stock up to a 52-week high after financial news organizations reported on Tusa's letter.

The value of Rockwell is clear, given its enviable position in the automation market and the depth of the distributor relationships it has built over the years, but whether those advantages could be sustained under different ownership is an open question.

Both Rockwell and GE declined to comment. A Rockwell spokesperson was widely quoted saying Rockwell can give shareholders the best value as an independent company.