GE Profit Jumps 25%, Beats Expectations

General Electric Co. (GE), the industrial, financial and media powerhouse, said Friday that first-quarter profit rose 25 percent from a year ago, with nine of the company's 11 businesses delivering at least double-digit earnings growth. Its shares edged up.

Net income grew to $4.04 billion, or 38 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31 from $3.24 billion, or 32 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue increased 19 percent to $39.8 billion from $33.4 billion last year.

General Electric shares rose 44 cents to $35.94 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange (search). Its shares have ranged from $29.55 to $37.75 over the past 52 weeks.

After sluggish earnings in recent years, GE has embarked on a strategy of returning to double-digit profit growth by shedding less profitable businesses such as insurance and making major acquisitions in healthcare, entertainment and other faster growth areas.

"Our results reflect good execution of our strategy," Jeff Immelt (search), GE's chief executive, said during a conference call with analysts. "We think we have really strong momentum for the rest of this year and into the future."

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to report earnings of 37 cents per share on sales of $38.02 billion in the latest quarter.

Looking ahead, GE now expects full-year earnings of $1.78 to $1.83 per share, the high end of its target range.

Analysts are predicting profit of $1.81 per share, on average. Industrial sales increased 25 percent to $20.8 billion, reflecting the impact of acquisitions and solid organic growth. Financial services revenue rose 13 percent over last year to $19.1 billion.

The company said it received engine, locomotive and services orders in the quarter totaling $4.1 billion, up $600 million over the first quarter of last year, including $2.2 billion in services orders and $1.9 billion in aircraft engine and locomotive orders.

Profits jumped 80 percent to $709 million at NBC Universal (search), which benefitted from an acquisition and strong sales from movies such as "Meet the Fockers" and "Ray." Healthcare profits increased 21 percent on strong demand for medical imaging products.

The energy and insurance segments were the only businesses to experience a drop in profits. GE said it expects energy, a key segment that includes sales of power turbines, to return to profit growth this year as orders pick up after more than two years of declines and its wind power business continues to grow fast.