Last week was a busy one for General Electric (NYSE:GE), but this week will be no less eventful -- the company will release its earnings.

Of course, it'll be tough to match the newsworthiness of Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) injection of $3 billion into General Electric in exchange for perpetual preferred stock. That deal followed hard behind a similar Buffett investment of $5 billion into Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).

But what induced Warren's GE purchase? What is it about the company that he finds especially attractive -- other than GE shares' nearly 50% plunge from their 52-week high? One silver lining: Several of GE's areas are at or near the top of their respective lines of business, including:

  • GE's oil and gas business is one of the leaders in exploration and production equipment, through respected, old-line oil patch names such as VetcoGray and Hydril. These lines provide a range of upstream equipment for drilling, production, mudline, and subsea solutions.
  • As The Wall Street Journal pointed out on Friday, the company's big health-care unit -- which produces, among other things, expensive equipment for magnetic resonance imaging -- is now led by company veteran John Dineen, who is looking to increase its overseas activity.
  • The GE "ecomagination" Homebuilder Program helps builders design homes that create fewer emissions and are far more energy-efficient than traditional structures. Once the homebuilding market begins its recovery, it's easy to envision the unit adding substantially to offerings from the likes of Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL), Lennar (NYSE:LEN), and Ryland (NYSE:RYL).

But a key to GE's market performance -- at least in the short term -- will occur Friday, when the company tells us about its earnings for the quarter ended in September. Expectations are for a slight slide to $0.45 a share, from $0.48 last year.

With the company under a microscope -- and depending on the mood of our roller-coaster market that day -- even a penny variance one way or the other likely will affect the share price meaningfully. On that basis, I'm inclined to counsel Fools to watch the results carefully. Should GE match or beat that $0.45 figure, I'm inclined to dip into a position in the company. If not, let's give it another quarter and revisit the issue later.

GE has been accorded four stars out of five by Motley Fool CAPS members. Could the company be one of those four-star performers about to break through?

Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. It's also a Stock Advisor recommendation. Take a peek at any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool owns a few shares in Berkshire Hathaway. The Fool has a disclosure policy.