GE tops 4Q earnings though industrial revenue slips

By Tom Murphy, AP Business Writer

General Electric topped Wall Street expectations for the fourth quarter and reaffirmed its target for 2016, but its shares slipped in afternoon trading as the energy company's industrial revenue declined.

General Electric topped Wall Street expectations for the fourth quarter and reaffirmed its target for 2016, but its shares slipped in afternoon trading as the company's industrial revenue declined.

The industrial conglomerate on Friday reported earnings of 52 cents per share, excluding the financial operations it's shedding, on $33.9 billion in revenue.

Wall Street had been looking for per-share earnings of 49 cents and revenue of $35.91 billion, according to a survey by FactSet.

Revenue from the company's industrial segment slipped 1 percent to $31.4 billion. General Electric has refocused on its industrial roots, making massive turbines and other complicated equipment, while selling off its operations in its financial wing as well as its appliance division.

It recently sold its appliance unit to China's Haier Group for $5.4 billion. It booked an additional $175 million in profits this quarter on a breakup fee after its attempt to sell the unit to Electrolux in Sweden fell through.

Overall, GE recorded $6.28 billion in net income attributable to common shareholders, a 22 percent increase over the same quarter last year.

Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said in a printed statement from the company that GE "executed well in a slow-growth environment." He pointed out that orders in the fourth quarter grew 1 percent, not counting acquisition gains, and GE's backlog grew to $315 billion after an $11 billion deal in November to acquire the power and transmission division of French manufacturer Alstom.

"We believe in the strength of our business model and that there is enough growth out there to deliver in 2016," Immelt said.

Revenue from GE's energy management operating segment jumped 20 percent to $2.38 billion in the quarter. But the conglomerate's oil andgas operating segment dropped 16 percent to $4.36 billion and was down 14 percent for the year.

The company built up its oil and gas drilling services operations in recent years through acquisitions, and investors applauded the moves when oil prices and consumption were rising. But an extended plunge has hurt the business and forced drillers to cut back on new exploration.

U.S. crude is trading for around $30 per barrel Friday. That's half the price that a barrel fetched in June and a third of what it cost in the previous summer.

General Electric Co. reaffirmed on Friday its goal for 2016 operating earnings of $1.45 to $1.55 per share.

Analysts expect earnings of $1.51 per share from the Fairfield, Connecticut, company.

GE announced earlier this month that is was moving its headquarters from Connecticut, where it has been for four decades, to Boston.

The move is expected to occur in stages that start this summer. It will be completed in 2018.

Shares of GE fell 45 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $28.14 in afternoon trading Friday.

GE's stock had climbed 23 percent last year to close out 2015 at $31.15 before sliding along with the broader market so far this year.

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