GE profits rise with oil and gas expansion

By Jonathan Fahey
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — General Electric Corp. earnings rose in the first quarter on rising profit from selling aircraft engines and transportation equipment and the sale of NBC. But results were held back by economic conditions in Europe that were even worse than expected.

GE reported net income of $3.5 billion, or 34 cents per share, on revenue of $35 billion. During last year’s first quarter, GE earned $3 billion, or 29 cents per share, on $35.2 billion in revenue.

Adjusted to reflect earnings only from continuing operations, GE earned 35 cents per share. That’s in-le with what analysts expected, on $34.5 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

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GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement that operations in emerging markets and the U.S. performed as expected. But Europe — which was expected to be bad — worsened. Revenue in the region fell 17 percent, Immelt said.

Europe’s struggles hit GE’s sales of power generation and water treatment equipment especially hard. Revenue for that division fell 26 percent in the quarter, and profit fell 39 percent.

Profits in the oil and gas segment and GE’s tiny energy management division also slipped in the quarter, offsetting profit gains in aviation, healthcare, transportation and home and business appliances.

Overall, sales of industrial equipment and services fell 6 percent and profit fell 11 percent. The company’s sale of NBC added earnings of 8 cents per share, while profit rose 9 percent at GE Capital, the company’s finance arm.

GE shares were down 69 cents, or 3 percent, to $21.97 in trading about 90 minutes before the market opened Friday.

Immelt acknowledged in the statement that GE expected the first half of this year to be difficult, but he said he expects performance to improve later this year.

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GE is in the midst of shaping itself into a more focused conglomerate that sells and services industrial equipment and appliances. It is shedding divisions such as NBC Universal and shrinking its banking operations. GE sold its 49 percent of NBC Universal to Comcast for $16.7 billion in the first quarter. Earlier this month, GE announced an agreement to buy the oilfield equipment maker Lufkin Industries Inc. for $3.1 billion, as part of a push to grow its oil and gas equipment division.

That push appears to be paying off. Orders for oil and gas equipment rose 24 percent in the first quarter. Orders for aviation equipment, powered by a new jet aircraft engine, rose 47 percent.