updated 1/16/2004 7:48:54 AM ET 2004-01-16T12:48:54

General Electric Co. reported fourth-quarter profits rose 47 percent as industrial orders rose strongly and a majority of the company's businesses achieved double-digit earnings growth.

The Fairfield-based conglomerate said Friday that earnings for the October-December period were $4.56 billion, or 45 cents per share, compared with $3.1 billion, or 31 cents per share, in the same period the prior year.

The results matched the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Quarterly comparisons were affected by an after-tax charge of $1.4 billion in 2002.

"GE had a solid 2003, with eight of 13 businesses delivering double-digit earnings growth for the year," said GE chief executive Jeff Immelt. "We positioned our company for long-term value enhancement, reorganized our businesses around our customers and made major progress on our growth initiatives."

GE, the world's biggest company by market value, was encouraged by a 19 percent rise in fourth-quarter orders, Immelt said.

"The increase was broad-based, with all of our industrial businesses experiencing growth," Immelt said. "GE has strong momentum going into 2004," Immelt said.

Revenue in the fourth quarter was $37 billion, up 4 percent from $35.5 billion in the prior year.

For 2003, GE reported profits of $15 billion, or $1.49 per share, up 6 percent from $14.1 billion, or $1.41 per share, in 2002.

GE has said it expects to return to double-digit profit growth in 2005 after limited to modest gains this year.

GE traditionally had double-digit profit growth, but earnings have been sluggish in recent years as key businesses such as power turbines, aircraft engines and plastics have coped with weak industries.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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