General Electric Co. on Friday posted a 19-percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings, hurt by lower profits on products like jet engines and continuing troubles in commercial real estate lending.
GE chief executive Jeffery Immelt said that the company saw signs of improvement at the end of the year and that orders for some of its equipment grew in the fourth quarter. But overall revenue still fell 10 percent to $41 billion in the quarter.
GE, which makes everything from jet engines to refrigerators, posted net income of $2.94 billion, or 28 cents per share. That compared with $3.65 billion, or 35 cents, a year earlier. Analysts expected 26 cents per share in earnings.
One of world's largest companies, GE is considered a barometer of the nation's economic health since it is involved in sectors ranging from energy to finance. Homeowners buy GE kitchen appliances, power plants use GE gas turbines and hospitals buy GE MRI machines. Consumers use credit cards backed by GE money and businesses turn to the company for loans to buy expensive equipment.
GE's results for 2009 — a 37 percent drop in annual earnings — indicate just how deeply the recession affected the company.
The company's GE Capital finance unit — the source of most of its problems in 2009 — squeezed out a modest profit in the fourth quarter. But it was still dogged by problems in its holdings and lending in commercial real estate. That unit posted a $593 million quarterly loss.
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