General Electric (GE) reported a 20% drop in fourth-quarter profit on Friday, hurt by the lingering impact related to the sale of its majority stake in NBC Universal to Comcast (CMCSA) last year.  

The Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate said it earned $3.8 billion, or 39 cents a share, compared with $4.7 billion, or 36 cents, in the year-earlier period.

Excluding one-time and discontinued items, the company earned 37 cents, which is just below average analyst estimates of 38 cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31 was $38 billion, down 8% from $41.2 billion a year ago, missing the Street’s view of $40.03 billion. But excluding the impact of its NBC Universal sale to Comcast, GE said sales climbed 4% during the quarter.

The company booked record infrastructure orders of $28.6 billion that enabled it to end the year with a record backlog of $200 billion and saw industrial revenues in emerging markets grow 25%.

However, while GE chief executive Jeff Immelt touted the company’s “strength and resilience during the quarter” and expressed his confidence in its 2012 position, he warned that volatility is expected to continue throughout this year.

GE has “prepared for it by investing in new products and technology, expanding our growth market footprint and taking important steps to strengthen risk management,” he said.

GE Capital is poised to grow double-digit in 2012, Immelt said, with volume in the segment up 13% sequentially in the fourth quarter. The segment, which acquired MetLife’s U.S. retail deposit business in December for $7.5 billion, saw earnings soar 58% to $1.6 billion.
 

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