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GE Meets Revised Third-Quarter Estimates

Updated from 6:48 a.m. EDT

General Electric (GE) reported third-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $4.5 billion, or 45 cents share, in line with revised estimates, as the industrial conglomerate experienced a decrease in financial services earnings.

Revenue in the quarter rose 11% to $47.2 billion.

"Our financial services business generated $2 billion of earnings, consistent with our revised expectations," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement Friday. "While GE Capital is not immune from the current environment, we continued to outperform our financial services peers. We are improving our margins and focusing these businesses on the right products and markets. GE Capital is on track to earn over $9 billion for the year."

Revenue at GE Capital Services rose 2% from last year to $18.4 billion. Industrial sales were $28.9 billion, an increase of 17% from a year earlier.

Third-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $4.5 billion fell 12% from $5.1 billion a year earlier. Net earnings in the quarter were $4.3 billion, or 43 cents a share, compared with $5.6 billion, or 54 cents a share, in the same period in 2007.

Immelt said GE is on track to meet the revised full-year guidance the company issued in September.

GE cut its forecast on Sept. 25, saying it expected a third-quarter profit of 43 cents to 48 cents a share, compared with its prior view of 50 cents to 54 cents. The company, which has a large financial component, blamed the shortfall on the "unprecedented weakness and volatility in the financial services markets."

At the same time, the company slashed its full-year profit outlook to a range of $19.5 billion to $21 billion, or $1.95 to $2.10 a share, from a previous estimate of $22 billion to $23 billion, or $2.20 to $2.30 a share.

Before the warning, analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were calling for GE to earn 52 cents in the third quarter and $2.21 a share for the year.

As part of a bid to preserve capital, GE last month put its stock buyback on hold and set plans to reduce GE Capital's commercial paper to 10% to 15% of the unit's total debt. However, GE said it would maintain its quarterly dividend of 31 cents a share through the end of 2009.

Just days after releasing its new projections, GE struck a deal to sell a stake to Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), the investment firm run by billionaire Warren Buffett. The arrangement called for GE to sell $3 billion of perpetual preferred stock in a private offering to Berkshire.

GE has also since gone to the public markets, raising more than $12 billion through a common stock offering.

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