NEW YORK General Electric Co posted a 12 percent rise in overall industrial profits on Thursday, as strength in its businesses selling gas turbines, jet engines and oil industry equipment offset weakness in healthcare and transportation.
GE, which is increasingly focusing on its traditional manufacturing businesses over its finance unit, posted an 8 percent increase in industrial revenue, even as overall company revenue fell slightly short of Wall Street's target.
First-quarter net earnings fell to $3 billion, or 30 cents per share, from $3.53 billion, or 34 cents per share, a year ago, when the company's results were boosted by its sale of NBCUniversal.
Excluding one-time items, operating earnings of 33 cents topped analysts' average estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 2.1 percent $34.18 billion. Analysts were looking for $34.36 billion.
GE backed its previous major 2014 financial targets.
GE shares rose 1 percent in initial premarket trading.
The following is investor and analyst reaction:
JACK DEGAN, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER AT HARBOR ADVISORY
CORP, PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE, OWNS GE SHARES
"The thing that surprised me was that organic growth was 8 percent when they were targeting for the year, 4 to 7 percent.
"To do that in the environment that we're in, indicates that as a whole they operated as a well in the first quarter.
"I think the things that drive the stock are industrial operating margins and strength in industrial revenue."
The industrial margin growth of 50 basis points is "actually a little shy of what I would have expected."
"It doesn't surprise me that in the first quarter, the (healthcare unit's result) wasn't positive. They have still three quarters to get above zero in terms of what they guided for the year."
PERRY ADAMS, NORTHWESTERN BANK, TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN,
MANAGES GE SHARES
"They beat expectations by a penny, but it definitely was a mixed bag.
"Orders were flat and the backlog was up slightly, but that's the first time in many quarters that the backlog has only grown slightly.
"The growth markets seemed to be doing OK. Organic growth came in at the high end.
"Healthcare was pretty weak. I'm curious to see what they say about that unit on the call today.
"In some respects we knew the Transportation unit would be weak due to the mining sector."
TIM GHRISKEY, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER OF SOLARIS ASSET
MANAGEMENT, BEDFORD HILLS, NEW YORK, OWNS GE SHARES
"Earnings at a penny above expectations is a positive, but it's not a major win here. It's not like we saw a lot of (overall) margin expansion. And the revenue just slightly missed expectations, but really just immaterially.
"The big story is the organic revenue growth. Organic revenue up 8 percent is a very good number. It really shows the return to an industrial emphasis is paying off, and where the company is focusing.
"It bodes very well for the future of GE and industrial America in general.
"You're always going to have a little bit of friction in terms of individual segments.
"Oil & Gas and Aviation seem to be the strongest on the revenue side.
"The healthcare industry in general is just going through such a transformation. It's not surprising to see some purchases being delayed.
"Transportation, not surprised to see that be a little weak."
(Reporting By Ernest Scheyder)