GE profit rises, helped by oil and gas business

U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co posted a slightly better-than-expected rise in revenue on Friday propelled by its businesses selling oil pumps and jet engines, and said its order backlog again swelled to a record.

GE, which has been seeking to reduce its dependence on earnings from the volatile financial sector and return to its industrial manufacturing roots, reported that six of its seven industrial segments grew earnings.

Fourth-quarter profit of 53 cents per share, excluding items, was in line with the average expectation of analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The diversified manufacturer said its quarterly net earnings rose to $4.2 billion, or 41 cents per share, from $4.01 billion, or 38 cents a share, a year earlier.

"We saw good conditions in growth markets, strength in the U.S., and a mixed environment in Europe," Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

Shares in GE dropped 1.1 percent in pre-market trading, after closing the previous session at $27.20.

GE said its cost cuts were ahead of plan for 2013, and it would seek to reduce costs by at least another $1 billion in 2014.

"Cost cuts are how they really made the quarter here," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management, which owns GE shares. "But at some point, cost cuts are going to run out."


Revenue rose 3.1 percent to $40.38 billion, about $160 million ahead of analysts' targets.

Revenue at its oil and gas business - its fourth largest, but fastest growing segment in 2013 - jumped 17 percent, while revenue in aviation, its second-biggest segment, increased 13 percent.

Ghriskey said the revenue growth was "reflecting very much a GDP type of growth rate, and nothing above that."

GE's backlog of orders for everything from locomotives to jet engines and turbines rose 16 percent to $244 billion.

For the year, GE missed its full-year goal for expanding its industrials operating margins "by a whisker," noted Jack Degan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp, which owns GE shares.

GE expanded its operating margin for its industrials businesses by 0.66 of a percentage point, below its full-year target of a 0.7 percentage point improvement.

"They make a lot of big stuff, and when you sell a lot of big things it's easier for things to slip on a quarter-by-quarter basis and have a dramatic effect on margins," Degan said.

"On a year-over-year basis, their margins are moving in the right direction," Degan said.

GE shares climbed 31 percent in 2013, outperforming the Dow Jones Industrials index and S&P 500 index , although the shares have given back some of those gains in 2014.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Sophie Hares)