General Electric Co topped Wall Street’s profit and revenue forecasts for the first quarter, helped by strong demand for energy equipment and railroad locomotives.
The largest US conglomerate said industrial orders had risen 20 per cent in the quarter and that selling prices had improved in most of its businesses. This should help Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt achieve his goal of boosting profit margins this year.
“Global markets are improving, but volatility remains,” Immelt told investors on a conference call.
He confirmed the company’s 2012 growth forecast, saying, “everything we see in the first quarter supports double-digit earnings growth.” GE shares rose 1 per cent to $19.33 on the New York Stock Exchange.Investors noted that the company had notched solid organic growth - a measure that factors out the influence of acquisitions or fluctuations in exchange rates.
“Organic revenue growth in the industrial business was great at 11 per cent,” said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory Corp, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, firm that owns GE shares. “GE has been a disappointment for a long time ... (and) is now finally going to get back to where its earnings can compound at a rate better than the S&P for a while.”
GE’s transportation unit, which makes locomotives, posted 41 per cent sales growth, while revenue at the GE Capital arm it is cutting back declined 12 per cent.
As of on Thursday’s close, GE shares were up 6.6 per cent for the past year, trailing the 10 per cent rise of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.
Investors said the report, which came on a day that fellow industrial Honeywell International Inc posted higher profit and raised its 2012 forecast, was a good sign for the rest of the sector. Blue-chip manufacturers United Technologies Corp, 3M Co and Caterpillar Inc are all due to report results next week.
GE “beat on revenues, which they haven’t really been able to do in a long time, and that really bodes well for industrials in particular,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst of Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.