BOSTON (Scott Malone) - General Electric Co notched a better-than-expected 21.6 percent rise in earnings, helped by strong demand for jet engines as well as equipment used in oil and natural gas production.
The largest U.S. conglomerate said on Friday its second-quarter results were helped by a rebound in sales of railroad locomotives, which offset weakening demand for wind turbines. With overall orders up 24 percent, pushing the company's backlog to $189 billion, Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said he was confident about the rest of the year.
"We are optimistic about our growth prospects in the second half and beyond," Immelt said.
The company's industrial revenues outside the United States were up 23 percent in the quarter, outperforming the overall company, which recorded a 7 percent rise in sales from continuing operations.
Investors said the results showed the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company's focus on emerging markets was paying off.
"GE's strategy of growth in developing nations and energy and infrastructure and healthcare and technology is serving it well," said Perry Adams, vice president and senior portfolio manager at Huntington Private Financial Group, in Traverse City, Michigan, which holds GE shares.
The rise in orders is a key sign that GE will be able to continue its pace of growth, said Nick Heymann, an analyst at William Blair & Co.
"That's the path back to the future," he said.
GE shares were down 5 cents at $19.11 on Friday morning, a day when fellow blue-chip industrial Caterpillar Inc missed profit forecasts, sending its shares sharply lower and weighing on the broader stock market.
Over the past year, GE shares have risen 26 percent, ahead of the 23 percent rise in the Dow Jones industrial average.
PROFIT TOPS STREET VIEW
The world's largest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said second-quarter profit attributable to common shareholders rose to $3.69 billion, or 35 cents per share, from $3.03 billion, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier.
Factoring out one-time items, profit was 34 cents per share. On that basis, analysts had expected 32 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 3.5 percent to $35.63 billion, reflecting the sale of a majority stake in GE's NBC Universal business to Comcast Corp. Analysts had expected $34.7 billion.
Profit fell 19 percent at GE's energy unit, which incurred large costs to integrate the $11 billion wave of takeovers it made between September and March. Profit margins on renewable energy equipment deteriorated. Demand was split, with sales of equipment used in oil and natural gas production up 39 percent, and electricity-producing gear up just 1 percent.
"If oil keeps going up and if Congress and the president do something more on renewables, which they keep talking about but haven't done, then margins have a long way to expand," said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "They're doing well to keep margins in those businesses as good as they are."
(Additional reporting by Nick Zieminski, Ryan Vlastelica and Roy Strom in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, John Wallace and Matthew Lewis)
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.