GE grows fourth-quarter profit by 52 per cent

Infrastructure and engineering firm GE has reported a net profit of $4.5bn (£2.8bn) in the fourth quarter of last year, up 52 per cent from $2.9bn in the same period in 2009.

It saw fourth quarter earnings jump by a third to $3.9bn or $0.36 per share, up from $2.9bn and $0.27 a year earlier.

The growth came despite only a slight one per cent increase in revenue to $41.3bn from $41bn a year earlier – although this was the first positive growth in more than two years.

Its earnings beat analyst forecasts of $0.33 per share, while revenues were also better than the expected $39.9bn, David Buik of BGC Partners said.

“What investors will like is a $300m fall in impairment charges,” he added.

Earnings for the year rose to $12.6bn on the bank of three quarters of growth and a strong uptick in new orders in the final three months.

Fourth-quarter orders grew 12 per cent year-on-year, the company said in a statement, with equipment up by 20 per cent and energy infrastructure by four per cent.

Investment in research and development activities also increased 21 per cent over the year.

“We continue to operate GE with discipline and rigor,” said GE chairman and chief executive Jeff Immelt, pointing to $4.6bn cash generated in the fourth quarter, and annual cash generation of $14.7bn.

Finance provider GE Capital saw net income in the fourth quarter rise by $1bn to $1.1bn, though impairments were still $2.5bn despite the $300m reduction.

But the sale of GE’s stake in US media company NBC Universal had taken longer to finalise and would bump the firm’s first-quarter 2011 tax rate “significantly higher”, he said.

“We expect that GE earnings growth will continue in 2011 and 2012. We have simplified the portfolio and dramatically reduced risk,” Immelt said.