NBC Universal profits down 45%

Parent company GE gains 1% to close at $12.39

NBC Universal saw quarterly operating profit plunge 45% even as parent GE was posting better-than-expected results Friday and buoying Wall Street’s spirits.

GE shares gained 1% to close at $12.39 after the massive conglom reported net income of $2.74 billion, down 36% from $4.3 billion in the year-ago period. That was still better than most analysts expected from the battered company, whose key GE Capital unit has been a cancer on the conglom over the past several months. The finance unit’s profits slumped 58% to $1.12 billion.

Revenue dropped 9% to $38.4 billion.

GE chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt said in a statement, “While cable continued to deliver double-digit growth, NBC Universal had a tougher performance overall due to a soft advertising market and fewer major DVD releases compared with a year ago.”

NBC U topper Jeff Zucker contended that the profit dip had “nothing to do with the strength of our operations.” Zucker said profits would have fallen 15%, in line with forecasts, without one-time charges.

Those items included the expense of broadcasting the Super Bowl (compared with the prior year’s strike-suppressed costs at NBC), a writedown of the investment in Ion Media and the timing of film releases.

Revenue at NBC Universal slipped 2% to $3.5 billion, and operating profit was $391 million. GE reported only the 80% of NBC U it owns. Vivendi has the rest.

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