GE profits edge up despite European weakness

US industrial giant General Electric Friday reported a 16 percent increase in quarterly earnings despite encountering mixed results in its operating units.

Net income for the first quarter came in at $3.5 billion compared with $3.0 billion in the year-earlier period. Revenue edged lower to $35.0 billion, from $35.1 billion in the prior period.

General Electric saw earnings growth in some units, including aviation and transportation. But the company's power and water division, one of its largest units by revenue, sustained a 26 percent drop in revenues and a 39 percent decline in segment profits.

"GE's markets were mixed," said chief executive Jeff Immelt in a statement. European industrial segment revenues declined 17%. Power & Water markets were "worse than we expected," Immelt said.

"We always anticipated that the first half of 2013 would be our toughest comparison; we expect Power & Water to improve during the year and be positive in the second half," Immelt said.

General Electric plans to reduce industrial costs by $1 billion. The company expects to to return $18 billion to shareholders in 2013 through buybacks and dividends.

The company during the quarter sold its 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast for $18.1 billion. GE plans to invest in its core industrial businesses.