GE profit meets Street view, sees 2012 growth

General Electric

The largest U.S. conglomerate expects to increase operating earnings per share at a double-digit percentage rate next year, despite what Chief Executive Jeff Immelt described as a "volatile global economy."

The world's biggest maker of jet engines and electric turbines reported third-quarter earnings attributable to common shareholders of $2.34 billion, or 22 cents per share, compared with $1.98 billion, or 18 cents per share, a year earlier.

The results included an 8-cent-per-share charge to buy back the preferred shares the company had sold to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc during the financial crisis.

Factoring out one-time items, profit came to 31 cents per share, meeting analysts' average forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue was little changed at $35.37 billion, above the $34.94 analysts had forecast.

GE has been counting on its large presence outside the United States, particularly in China, Russia and the Middle East, to offset sluggish demand in its home economy and Europe. It has also been working since the financial crisis to scale back its GE Capital finance arm.

Investors have grown uneasy that Europe's brewing debt crisis could shake the world financial system once more. But big industrial companies have notched third-quarter results that topped Wall Street's expectations.

Earlier this week, fellow blue-chip United Technologies Corp beat analysts' forecasts and said it expects profits to rise about 10 percent next year, despite a tougher economy.

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE also expects 2012 to be a period of slower economic growth than 2011.

GE shares have fallen about 9 percent so far this year, while the Dow Jones industrial average has declined less than 1 percent.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, editing by Maureen Bavdek and Derek Caney)