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General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt Accepts First Bonus Since 2007

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IMMELT
Jeffery Immelt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric | AP

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) paid Jeffrey Immelt a $4 million cash bonus in 2010, following two years when the chief executive of the largest U.S. conglomerate declined a payout in the face of sliding profits.

The payout, which boosted Immelt's total compensation to $21.42 million from $9.89 million in 2009, came in a year that the world's biggest maker of jet engines and electric turbines broke a two-year profit slump and saw its shares rebound.

Immelt got a $5.8 million bonus in 2007, the last year he accepted one. In 2010, he also received a special equity grant of 2 million stock options, according to a regulatory filing.

"In 2010, GE had a very strong year, including 15 percent earnings growth, a 9 percent reduction in GE Capital's ending net investment (ENI), $14.7 billion of industrial cash from operating activities and strong order growth ending the year with a record $175 billion backlog," the company said in the filing.

"This performance is a direct result of actions taken by Mr. Immelt and the GE leadership team over the last few years," including reducing GE Capital's size, investing in technology and research to increase organic growth in GE's industrial business, and strategic acquisitions.

Immelt, who has run GE since 2001, picked up some new duties in January. U.S. President Barack Obama named the CEO to head an advisory council on jobs and competitiveness, in an effort to head off criticism that the administration is out of step with the concerns of corporate America.

The stock options grant is valued at $7.4 million under applicable SEC rules, the company said. Immelt "will only realize compensation from this award if he continues to work for the company over the five-year vesting period and GE's stock price increases."

Of the $21.4 million total compensation, GE said $6.2 million reflects an annual pension value increase, based on an increase in his service and age and changes in actuarial pension assumptions rather than changes in actual compensation.

The past 12 months have been a momentous time for Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE. The company closed on its sale of a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal media to Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and returned to the takeover trail with a vengeance, reaching a series of deals to boost its presence in the energy industry as Immelt seeks to refocus the company on its industrial roots.

The company also raised its dividend by a total of 37 percent in two moves, boosting the quarterly payout to 14 cents per share. Immelt has repeatedly said that the company aims to pay out about 45 percent of its annual profit to shareholders and that it plans to continue to raise the dividend to match earnings growth.

GE shares were down 2.2 percent on Monday to $19.92. The shares have risen about 24 percent over the past year, outperforming the roughly 13 percent gain in the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI

But even with those accomplishments, GE bears the scars of the financial crisis. Its dividend remains at less than half the level that was in place before the company slashed the payout in 2009 and Immelt has yet to buy back the $3 billion preferred stake the company sold Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) during the credit crunch.

The shares trade at about half what they were worth before Immelt took the reins in September 2001.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Lynn Adler in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernard Orr)

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