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NBC Universal Profit Falls 6%; Stations Bad, Cable Networks Strong

Profit at General Electric's NBC Universal unit fell 6% to $865 million, as a strong performance at the company’s cable networks was offset by problems at its broadcast stations, the company reported Friday.

NBC Universal revenues dropped 3% to $4.4 billion in the quarter.

For the full year, NBC Universal's profit rose 1% to $3.1 billion as its revenues rose 10% to $17 billion.

On Friday morning’s conference call with analysts, GE Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin said NBC Universal’s performance was in line with expectations.

“Cable had another great quarter,” Mr. Sherin said, with revenues up 11% and operating profit up 22%.

Operating profit plummeted 50% in NBC Universal’s broadcast segment.

Mr. Sherin said the network and TV production operations “had a strong quarter with positive profit growth,” but that local stations “had a tough quarter," with revenues down 25% and operating profit down 55%.

The declines were “driven by the economy, and you’re seeing that in local advertising,” he said.

NBC Universal’s TV studio continues to perform well, with “a lot of good revenue and margins from owned content like ‘House,’ ‘Heroes’ and ‘30 Rock,’" Mr. Sherin said.

The company took a $215 million writedown against its investment in Shop NBC and Ion Networks.

Mr. Sherin said the company was “excited about the changing broadcast model with the agreement to have Jay Leno go on at 10 p.m.”

GE’s fourth-quarter net earnings declined 44% to $3.7 billion, or 35 cents a share, from $6.6 billion, or 68 cents, a year ago. For the full year, net earnings fell 22% to $17.4 billion, or $1.79 a share, from $22.2 billion, or $2.21 a share.

GE’s fourth-quarter revenues were $46.2 billion, down 5%. For the full year, revenues were up 6% to $183 billion. Industrial sales were up 12%.

“In a very tough environment, we delivered fourth-quarter business results in line with expectations we provided in December,” said GE Chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
General Electric owns 80% of NBC Universal.

(Editor: Baumann. Updated 9:25 a.m. to add unit performance.)

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