Saturday, January 24, 2009

G.E. Meets Expectations for Fourth Quarter, but Questions Persist for 2009

Editor's Note: GE is closely watched because it is often thought to be a bellweather for the rest of the economy.

The New York Times - The General Electric Company delivered a mixed performance in the fourth quarter — and one that is unlikely to resolve the uncertainty about the outlook for the giant industrial and finance conglomerate.

The company’s profit from continuing operations fell 43 percent in the fourth quarter, to $3.9 billion, down from $6.8 billion in the year-earlier quarter. But the lower earnings, at 36 cents a share, were in line with Wall Street’s expectations, which have fallen steadily since the credit crisis last fall and the sharp economic downturn.

Industry analysts have questioned whether G.E. can maintain its generous dividend payments and its triple-A credit rating, given that its large finance business has been hit by credit woes and many of its industrial operations face a weakening outlook.

G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, expressed confidence on both fronts, in a statement and during a conference call with analysts. He said that G.E. was committed to its plan of paying the full dividend of $1.24 a share in 2009, and that its management team ran the company to maintain a stellar triple-A rating.

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