When most people think of General Electric
GE is obviously much more than lightbulbs and NBC; in fact, the company has 11 divisions, with eight producing double-digit earnings growth and continued strong cash flow in the third quarter. Segment profit, however, was held to about 2% on the impact of gains in Consumer & Industrial (+31%), Healthcare (+31%), Transportation (+28%), NBC Universal (+24%), Commercial Finance (+18%), and Consumer Finance (+14%) units that barely overshadowed losses in Insurance (-80%), Energy (-35%), and Advanced Materials (-18%). Earnings came in on target at $0.38 per share, which bested last year's earnings of $0.36 per share.
The company produced 15% overall revenue growth in the quarter, with NBC Universal (+170%), Healthcare (+43%), and Transportation (+20%) leading the charge. The Olympics fueled NBC Universal's growth, and the games attracted 203 million total U.S. viewers, or 86% of all television households. NBC benefited from 24-hour coverage spread across its affiliate networks.
GE also has a quite positive view of the economy, supported by its 27% increase in orders for the quarter. The firm's going into its fourth quarter with what it terms "strong momentum"; management has tightened its earnings range for 2004 to $1.57 to $1.60 per share (the analysts' consensus estimate is $1.58 per share). The company also remains confident that it can achieve earnings growth of 10% to 15% in 2005, as it launches new healthcare technology, expands Consumer Finance operations into Russia and Korea, and continues to produce low-emission and fuel-efficient locomotives.
GE usually paints a much rosier picture of the economy than most companies, which is probably due to the tremendous breadth of this conglomerate's assets. If you're looking for shares that will stand strong in a difficult economic environment, then GE is worth serious consideration. This double-digit grower also sports a very attractive 2.36% dividend yield (the company has raised the dividend for 28 consecutive years).
Try multitasking like GE by turning on the television and the light, and then clicking on these other Takes:
Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and is a loyal watcher of The Apprentice. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.