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General Electric profit rises by 4 percent

/ Source: The Associated Press

Industrial, financial and media conglomerate General Electric Co. said Friday its fourth-quarter profit rose 4 percent on strong global demand, and it reaffirmed its outlook for fiscal 2008.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, net income rose to $6.7 billion, or 66 cents per share, from $6.44 billion, or 62 cents per share, a year ago. Earnings from continuing operations totaled 68 cents per share in the latest period, up from 58 cents in the prior-year quarter.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $48.59 billion from $41.28 billion a year ago.

Profit met the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, while revenue topped Wall Street’s outlook of $47.28 billion. GE had forecast a quarterly profit of 67 cents to 69 cents per share.

The company said more than half of its revenue now comes from outside the U.S., helping to cushion GE from a possible U.S. recession.

GE’s total orders rose 18 percent to $27 billion for the quarter and climbed 18 percent to $98 billion for the year. Total backlog grew $19 billion year-over-year, an increase of 42 percent.

“We have strengthened the portfolio for growth, restructured to lower our cost, maintained our Triple A credit rating and stayed true to our risk management principles,” GE Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

GE, which produces transportation equipment, offers financial services and operates television network NBC, said it booked 20 percent or more profit growth from its energy, aviation, oil and gas, transportation and water segments during the fourth quarter.

The company said its financial services earnings grew 37 percent globally, as strong risk management helped the business weather volatile market conditions.

The company didn’t address any impact the Writers Guild of America strike, which began Nov. 5, had on its NBC unit or its film operations.

Looking ahead, GE said it expects to earn at least $2.42 per share from continuing operations in 2008, compared with Wall Street’s consensus estimates of $2.43 per share. For the first quarter, the company also backed guidance for profit of 50 cents to 53 cents per share from continuing operations. Wall Street is predicting profit of 51 cents per share.

In a filing with regulators, GE also said it corrected accounting errors related to spare parts in its aviation business. The correction cut its 2002 profit but slightly raised profits for 2003 through 2006. The company said its internal review and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation are both continuing.