GE beats expectations; NBCU profits plunge


Given the tough economy, Wall Street was pleased that earnings per share were down only 52% at General Electric. NBC Universal saw profits drop 41% as revenues declined 8%.

Given the turmoil in the financial sector, it is hardly surprising that most of the attention was focused on GE Capital during GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts. However, he did defend the company’s conglomerate structure, saying “We’re very committed to this business model.” In the past there had been calls for GE to sell or spin-off NBC Universal as not fitting with its mostly industrial businesses. This time, though, he was defending ownership of GE Capital, stating that GE would oppose any effort by the Obama Administration to force it to separate the finance company from the rest of GE.

Q2 revenues at NBCU declined only 8% to $3.57 billion, but profits fell 41% to $539 million. There were, however, some special items each year affecting profits, including the write-down of NBCU’s stake in Ion Media Networks in Q2 2009 and profits from its sale of Sundance Channel in Q2 2008. Excluding special items, Q2 2009 profits fell only about 24%.

At the O&O TV group, now called NBC Local Media, Q2 operating profits fell about $100 million, according to GE CFO Keith Sherin. On the NBC Network side, he had little to report on the Upfont, except to confirm that negotiations on ad sales for the coming season are going “very slow.”

NBCU’s cable networks continue to be a bright spot. Their profits were up 7% in Q2 to $595 million.