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April 30 (Reuters) - General Electric Co said on Tuesday first-quarter profit from its continuing operations more than tripled, helped by higher sales in its aviation, oil and gas, and healthcare units, and its shares rose more than 10 percent in premarket trading.
GE also reported $1.2 billion in negative cash flow from its industrial business, much better than the $2.16-billion outflow that analysts, on average, were expecting.
GE took a string of multibillion-dollar writedowns last year, so the slowing in cash outflows in the latest quarter could be a sign that its fortunes have started to improve.
But while the Boston-based conglomerate stuck to its full-year financial forecast, it said Boeing Co's 737 MAX jet presented a "new risk" for GE, which makes engines for the plane with partner Safran SA of France. Boeing's newest jetliner was grounded worldwide last month after a second fatal accident in less than five months.
Profit margins also contracted at GE's aviation, power and renewable energy businesses, the three core units that GE plans to retain as it undergoes a break-up announced last year.
And GE's cash balance was boosted mainly the $2.9-billion sale of locomotive business to Wabtec Corp. Its adjusted free cash flow from industrial businesses was "better than planned," GE said, helped mainly by the timing of payments. GE did not provide further detail.
Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp had set low earnings targets in March and warned that GE's industrial cash flow could be negative by as much as $2 billion.
Culp had said this "reset" would result in negative cash flow at its ailing power business through 2020 before turning positive in 2021. GE wrote down $22 billion in goodwill at the unit last year.
In the latest quarter, power orders fell 14 percent and profit fell 71 percent to $80 million on revenue of $5.7 billion, down about 22 percent from a year earlier, GE said.
Earnings from continuing operations attributable to GE shareholders rose to $954 million in the first quarter ended March 31 from $261 million a year earlier.
Earnings per share from continuing operations rose to 11 cents from 3 cents, the company said.
On an adjusted basis, GE earned 14 cents per share. Analysts had expected 9 cents per share, on average.
Total revenue fell 2 percent to $27.29 billion, above analysts' average estimate of $27.05 billion. (Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru and Alwyn Scott in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby and Nick Zieminski)