As expected, General Electric
Looking ahead, GE is in a strong position, with 15% quarterly growth in orders over last year and a 21% increase in the order backlog. All of the six major business divisions grew revenues at rates between 3% and 20%, and except for laggard NBC -- more on that business later -- all reported operating income growth of at least 6%.
The star of the show was the infrastructure division, with a revenue increase of 20%, 24% higher operating income, and the largest component of both revenues and earnings. CEO Jeff Immelt sees equally bright prospects for that segment in the coming quarters, based on continued economic growth around the world, alongside expected service contracts to support the larger-than-expected amount of hardware sold and installed. That gives the company a firm earnings base going forward, reducing overall risk for the entire conglomerate.
The worst-performing business segment was media arm NBC Universal, which grew revenues but went deeper into bottom-line red ink because the growth came mostly from low-margin theatrical releases. But that should be a short-lived trend.
For the national broadcast network, average viewership grew 15% year over year on the strength of new hits like Heroes and 30 Rock, as well as a heroic ER performance. That doesn't translate into immediate monetary results, though; now NBC goes back to its advertisers, armed with the numbers, and negotiates more generous advertising rates. Management expects NBC to deliver an operating profit in the next quarter.
GE is in good shape for the coming period overall, with the NBC improvement giving management the freedom to focus on making the low-margin plastics manufacturing business sing again. The company is intent on creating organic revenue growth, and this was the seventh straight quarter of the metric at least doubling the growth pace of the overall economy, this time with a 10% performance. And I like the stated goal of reaching 20% return on total capital by 2008, a target that looks makeable from today's 18% baseline.
There's a lot to like about General Electric -- diverse operations, torrential cash flow, generous stock repurchase and dividend programs, and a business firing on almost all cylinders today with the promise of an even better tomorrow -- and the stock is trading at the same price today as it did two years ago. You be the judge of the value in GE, though the CAPS community is certainly happy to give you an opinion -- or 850.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Disney shareholder, but holds no position in any of the other companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like -- deal, or no deal? Foolish disclosure is always highly rated.