General Electric profits lifted by NBC stake sale

Airplane turbine General Electric is refocusing on its industrial businesses, like making airplane turbines

General Electric has reported a 16% rise in first quarter profits, helped by a one-off gain from the sale of its stake in NBC Universal.

It made a profit of $3.53bn (£2.3bn) in the quarter, up from $3.03bn last year. Revenue was flat at $35bn.

The conglomerate has been trying to put its focus back on core industrial businesses, which include aviation and energy infrastructure.

It said orders for its aviation equipment jumped 47%.

Orders for oil and gas equipment and services, such as turbines and plant maintenance, rose 24%, said GE chairman and chief executive Jeff Immelt.

"In growth markets, equipment and service orders grew 17%. We ended the quarter with our biggest backlog in history," he said. Orders grew to $216bn in the first quarter from $210bn in the fourth quarter of 2012.

In the first three months of 2013 GE was awarded a $620m maintenance contract for QGC's Queensland Curtis liquified natural gas plant off the east coast of Australia.

It also won a contract to provide power equipment for the Emirates Aluminum smelter complex in Abu Dhabi, and another maintenance contract for a LNG project in Russia.

But the company said it had been affected by weaker-than-expected sales in Europe, especially in sales of power and water equipment.

"GE's markets were mixed. The US and growth markets were in line with expectations. We planned for a continued challenging environment in Europe, but conditions weakened further with Industrial segment revenues in the region down 17%," said Mr Immelt.

"We always anticipated that the first half of 2013 would be our toughest comparison," he added.

During the quarter, the company sold its 49% stake in NBC Universal to Comcast for $18.1bn.

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