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Chilly Peacock cools GE

NBC dip hits General Electric earnings

NBC Universal had another rough quarter as a 10% dip in profit squeezed earnings at parent General Electric.

The unit was one of GE’s worst performing for the three months ended in September, while the industrial biz, with its aircraft engines and locomotives, saw profits rise 18%.

GE’s total net income grew 6.1% to nearly $5 billion. Revenue rose 12% to about $41 billion.

Execs tried to be upbeat. “NBC Universal is making good progress in finishing the year on the upswing with positive momentum from the new primetime lineup,” said GE chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

Net is still trying to dig itself out a hole. After years on top, it finished in last place last season again. But a new fall lineup — including “30 Rock,” “Heroes” and “Sunday Night Football” — is raising hopes of better days ahead.

Numbers come as Wall Streeters and industry insiders speculate on the future of NBC U topper Bob Wright, who many think will retire in the next year or so, and his presumed heir-apparent Jeff Zucker, whose ultimate fate may depend on the success of this TV season. Immelt has publicly supported both men and said he’s not looking to replace Wright.

Talk has also heated up in recent months about the possibility that GE will spin off NBC U into a separately traded public company. Many analysts think that’s the conglom’s ultimate intention. But they can’t see why GE would do it until the division’s fortunes start to improve.

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