By BOB SECHLER
General Electric Co.'s second-quarter earnings rose 16%, buoyed by a stronger performance at its GE Capital financial unit and what the company described as an economic environment that "continues to improve."
The results marked the Fairfield, Conn., conglomerate's first profit growth in nine quarters, or since the financial crisis began.
GE reported Friday earnings of $3.11 billion, or 28 cents a share, up from $2.69 billion, or 25 cents a share, a year earlier. Earnings from continuing operations climbed to 30 cents a share from 26 cents a share, surpassing Wall Street's consensus forecast of 27 cents.
Still, revenue slipped 4.3% to $37.44 billion and came in short of analysts' consensus $38.37 billion view. GE blamed the trend on downsizing at GE Capital as well as lower equipment sales and dispositions of some industrial assets.
In prepared comments, Chief Executive Jeff Immelt was upbeat overall, citing in particular the improvement at GE Capital, which has been a drag on earnings side for more than two years.
"We continue to see improvement in key performance measures," Mr. Immelt said of the finance unit. "We have strengthened the franchise over the past year and GE Capital's earnings recovery should continue."
GE shares were up about 1% at $15.40 in premarket trading. The stock through Thursday's close was up 23% in the past year, but it remains off more than 50% from the start of 2008.
Profit at GE Capital soared 93% to $830 million, while revenue declined 3%. But GE Capital's commercial-real-estate portfolio, which continues to be a sore spot, saw its loss widen in the quarter, to $524 million from $237 million a year earlier.
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Mr. Immelt said the real-estate losses were "in line with expectations." The company reiterated its belief that losses at GE Capital have peaked overall.
On its industrial side, GE said orders for equipment and services came in at $19.2 billion, up 7.3% from the year-ago quarter and 12% from the first quarter. The company's order backlog, a harbinger of future revenue, slipped about 1% to $172 billion, though GE said the trend was mostly the result of unfavorable foreign-exchange rates.
Revenue at GE's energy infrastructure unit came in at $9.54 billion, off about 9%, although profit climbed 3%. Revenue at its technology infrastructure unit came in at $9.06 billion, off 6%. Profit at the unit declined 11%.
—Tess Stynes contributed to this article.
Write to Bob Sechler at email@example.com