General Electric Co., a global powerhouse whose operations range from finance to aerospace, on Thursday said net profits rose 9 percent in the fourth quarter as strength in its and finance segments offset the effect of a weak economy on other units. 

The company affirmed financial targets for 2002, saying it could meet its profit growth goals even if the economy does not recover. 

GE, the world's largest company by stock market capitalization, reported fourth-quarter earnings of $3.93 billion, or 39 cents per share, compared with $3.59 billion, or 36 cents per share, a year ago. 

The results met Wall Street targets, which were lowered in September following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Analysts pegged GE at a profit of 39 cents per share, according to tracking firm Thomson Financial/First Call. 

Revenues for the quarter totaled $33.98 billion down from $34.98 billion a year ago. On a comparable basis, the company said revenues rose 3 percent versus the fourth quarter of 2000. 

``2001 was an especially challenging year,'' said Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, in a prepared statement. ``This is a tribute to our great global team and the strength of the GE business model.'' 

Among GE's many segments, the Power Systems, Technical Products and Services, and Appliances businesses generated profit growth. GE Capital, the company's largest segment, reported a 15 percent increase in earnings before accounting changes. 

On the down side, the Aircraft Engines, Industrial Products and Systems and Materials operations along with broadcasting unit NBC posted declining profits for the fourth quarter. 

Shares of GE, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, have fallen 20 percent over the last 12 months. Since Sept. 11, the stock is down 4 percent. GE's stock closed at $37.72 on Wednesday, off a 52-week high of $53.55.