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GE earnings beat expectations

General Electric Co said yesterday that its first-quarter earnings fell 36 percent on sharply lower profits at its troubled finance arm, but the results beat Wall Street forecasts in a glimmer of good news for the struggling company.

GE, which has a stake in almost every sector of the United States economy, from light bulbs to locomotives, posted earnings from continuing operations of US$2.92 billion or 26 US cents per share. That surpassed the 21 cents per share forecast by analysts.

After paying preferred dividends, GE's net income totaled US$2.74 billion, down from US$4.30 billion, or 43 US cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 9 percent to US$38 billion, with sales down or flat in every division except GE's energy business. The broad recession has hurt many of GE's industrial businesses that make products such as jet engines, oil field equipment and household appliances. Sales also declined at GE's entertainment division, which includes the NBC television network.

Earnings at GE Capital fell 58 percent, but still amounted to US$1.12 billion, holding to GE's prediction last month that the segment would be profitable despite growing losses on its loans in areas such as credit cards and commercial properties. GE said yesterday that the unit is on track to turn a profit in 2009.

Jeff Immelt, GE's CEO, said the company still believes it won't have to raise new capital to prop up GE Capital. That has been a major worry for investors and contributed to a steep slide in GE's share price earlier this year.

GE shares rose 77 US cents, or more than 6 percent, to US$13.04 in pre-market trading yesterday.


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