GE 1Q Profit, Revenue Top Street Views; Dividend Raised

Lifted by the stronger economy and improving GE Capital, General Electric (NYSE:GE) revealed a larger-than-expected 77% surge in first-quarter profits on Thursday, prompting the blue-chip company to hike its dividend.

The highly-diversified conglomerate that makes everything from nuclear reactors to jet engines and microwaves said it earned $3.43 billion, or 31 cents a share, last quarter. That compares with a profit of $1.95 billion, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 33 cents a share, topping consensus calls from analysts for 28 cents.

Revenue increased 6.2% last quarter to $38.45 billion, blowing past the Street’s view of just $34.64 billion.

“As today’s results show, GE has emerged from the recession a stronger, more competitive company,” CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

GE’s results were driven in part by continued progress at its financial arm, GE Capital, which grew its revenue by 3% to $12.3 billion amid the improving credit environment. The business had been a thorn in the side of investors during the financial crisis, incurring massive losses.

“With losses having peaked, we are originating new business at attractive margins and our funding costs continue to be favorable,” said Immelt. “We have strengthened the GE Capital franchise and are on track for solid earnings growth.”

All of GE’s segments reported revenue growth, led by an 18% climb in sales at its transportation business to $903 million. Health-care revenue increased 10% to $4.1 billion, while energy infrastructure revenue rose 9% to $9.4 billion.

Encouraged by its performance, GE raised its quarterly dividend by a penny to 15 cents per share.

“It reflects not only our continued strong cash generation and accelerated recovery at GE Capital, but also solid underlying performance in our Industrial businesses and confidence in the GE business model overall,” said Immelt.

Shareholders applauded GE’s results and dividend hike, bidding the company’s stock 2.21% higher to $20.85 in Thursday’s premarkets. The stock had already been up more than 11% on the year.