General Electric Sees Profit for GE Capital

General Electric on Thursday said it expects its GE Capital financial unit to turn a profit in the first quarter and in 2009.
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Updated from 11:39 a.m. EDT

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

on Thursday said it expects its GE Capital financial unit to turn a profit in the first quarter and in 2009.

Speaking early Thursday at what is scheduled to be a five hour investor presentation on GE Capital, GE CFO Keith Sherin said the company believes its capital position is secure.

"We don't see a need to raise external capital," Sherin said, though he said the unit could receive further injections from its parent.

GE called the meeting following a cut to its

dividend

and a ratings downgrade that recently caused it to

lose its longtime triple-A rating

.

Following an introduction by Sherin, GE Capital head Mike Neal took the microphone and said the company would give an unprecedented level of detail on several of its business units in response to questions from investors. These include concerns about the company's exposure to several areas, including Eastern Europe, the U.S. consumer, mortgages in the U.K. and, above all, real estate.

Neal says real estate is "the area most people are the most concerned about."

GE shares initially rallied, but closed down 2.8% to $10.58 amid a wider selloff. The stock had traded as low as $5.87 a share last month, as the conglomerate,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

weighed on the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

.

GE's real estate portfolio includes $48 billion in debt and $33 billion in equity. The real estate portfolio accounted for about 15% of GE Capital's assets in 2008.

Ron Pressman, president and CEO of GE's real estate unit, took pains to distinguish GE's real estate exposure from that of large banks with which GE and GE Capital are frequently linked.

Pressman says GE invests in high-quality properties in markets it knows well. It has largely stayed away from riskier areas such as construction lending, which have been a big contributor to problems for banks.

"We think the fact that we don't participate in the construction and development business is a big differentiator," he said.