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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 16:16 GMT
GE expects growth as profit jumps
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Manufacturing giant General Electric has announced a 47% jump in profits for the last three months of 2003.

The firm added that demand for its products and services was increasing.

GE has expanded into medical and personal finance markets to help boost its more traditional businesses of light bulbs and jet engines.

Total orders climbed 19% in the fourth quarter, prompting Chief Executive Jeff Immelt to forecast earnings growth of more than 10% next year.

GE were up 32 cents to $32.32 in morning trade on Wall Street.


Analysts said they were optimistic that the company, which owns the NBC television network and also has interests in power systems and plastics, is well placed to benefit from a rebound in global economic growth.

Recent figures out of the US have underpinned their hopes, signalling that consumer and corporate demand is improving.

GE's earnings have reflected that pick up in demand, with the company forecasting double-digit earnings growth at nine of its 11 business divisions for this year.

Profit for 2004 as a whole, however, may be dented by costs from GE's billion-dollar merger with UK medical company Amersham and the purchase of Vivendi Universal's US media businesses.

End of the slide?

Even so, many analysts and investors are betting that the company has turned a corner, putting behind it more than a year of sliding earnings.

In 2003, profit climbed 3% from the previous year.

Fourth-quarter profit was $4.6bn (2.6bn; 3.7bn euros), compared with $3.1bn a year earlier, which was in line with market estimates.

Sales, meanwhile, gained 4% to $36.9bn, beating analysts' estimates.

The main driver of earnings growth at the end of last year was a surge in revenue from insurance-related businesses, the company said.

Profit from insurance totalled $2.1bn compared with a loss of $95m a year earlier.

The personal finance, transportation, power system and aircraft engine divisions also reported improved earnings.

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