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GE profit down 44%, meets expectations

  General Electric Co reported a 44% drop in quarterly profit, meeting Wall Street’s expectations, as the US conglomerate and economic bellwether closed out one of the toughest years in its 117-year history.

Earnings tumbled 67% at GE Capital finance and 86% at its lighting and appliance unit, and were also down 6% at NBC Universal media. Profit was up at its two infrastructure units, which make electricity-producing turbines and engines.

The world’s largest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said on Friday profit came to $3.72 billion, or 35 cents per diluted share, compared with $6.7 billion, or 66 cents per diluted share, a year earlier. Factoring out one-time items, results met Wall Street’s expectations, according to Reuters Estimates. Revenue fell 4.8%.

CEO Jeff Immelt said the company stands by its 2009 earnings framework laid out in December, that it is committed to pay a full-year dividend of $1.24 per share and that he will continue to run it to keep its top-shelf Triple-A credit rating.

GE has been hard hit by the global financial crisis, which has pounded down results at its hefty GE Capital finance arm and led many on Wall Street to wonder if it could lose its coveted triple-A debt rating. Its shares have tumbled about 60% over the past year, erasing some $200 billion in market capital, and sharply outpacing the roughly 32% fall of the Dow Jones industrial average. (Reuters)