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GE Gives 2008 Earnings Guidance Below Forecasts

General Electric expects its profit to rise "at least" 10 percent in 2008 to $2.42 per share, led by gains in its infrastructure business, Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said.

** FILE ** General Electric (GE) Chairman, Jeff Immelt at Isaac Sheppard Elementary School in Philadelphia, in this file photo from April 25, 2006. General Electric Co. expects sales in China to double in the next four to five years, while its Chinese researchers should play a growing role creating products for global markets, Immelt said Monday May 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke,File)
Matt Rourke
** FILE ** General Electric (GE) Chairman, Jeff Immelt at Isaac Sheppard Elementary School in Philadelphia, in this file photo from April 25, 2006. General Electric Co. expects sales in China to double in the next four to five years, while its Chinese researchers should play a growing role creating products for global markets, Immelt said Monday May 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke,File)

GE, which makes products ranging from jet engines to lightbulbs, also said its board had approved an 11 percent hike in its quarterly dividend to 31 cents per share as well as a plan to buy back $15 billion of its shares over the next three years.

"Our focus in 2008 will continue to be on generating high quality earnings growth of at least 10 percent," Immelt said in a statement. "This commitment reflects a slowing U.S. economy. We want to give our investors safe and reliable earnings growth as the economy evolves."

Analysts, on average, expected the second-largest U.S. company by market capitalization to report a profit of $2.49 per share for 2008, according to Reuters Estimates.

"We've got great visibility in infrastructure, we've got significant global growth, we've got some turnarounds in place in places like health care and we're trying to position financial services so that there's only upside," Immelt told investors in New York. His comments were monitored over the Internet.

Immelt said the company expects the fastest growth next year from its infrastructure unit, with operating profit up 15 to 20 percent. The company expects operating profit to rise about 10 percent at its health care, NBC Universal and industrial units, and up about 5 percent at its financial arms.

Finance makes up a sizable chunk of the Fairfield, Conn.-based company's operations, accounting for more than a third of its total profit through the first nine months of 2007.

"We're planning for a tough, but manageable, year" at GE's financial arms, Immelt said.

GE also estimated 2007 profits of $2.19 to $2.21 per share.

Shares of GE were briefly down about 2 percent Tuesday before closing at $37.03, lower by 1.02 percent. For the year, they are down 0.5 percent, trailing the 7.8 percent rise of the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average, of which GE is a component.

In the United States, GE trails only Exxon Mobilin market capitalization.

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