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(Reuters) - General Electric Co's (GE.N) fourth-quarter revenue fell short of Wall Street expectations because of slower-than-expected growth in Europe, sending its shares down 2.5 percent in premarket trading.
The largest U.S. conglomerate expects a volatile year but it plans to build up its emerging-market presence and restructure its European operations.
Its profit came in 1 cent per share above Wall Street's forecasts.
"We're concerned about the revenue miss," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York. "That's really what we're focused on this earnings season. We're not so concerned about being a penny above or below expectations, because that can be handled with accounting."
The world's biggest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said net income from continuing operations rose 0.6 percent to $3.93 billion, or 37 cents per share, compared with $3.90 billion, or 36 cents per share, a year ago.
Factoring out one-time items, profit came to 39 cents per share, above the 38 cents analysts had forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue came to $37.97 billion, down from $41.23 billion and below the $40.03 billion analysts had expected. Factoring out the effects of last year's sale of a majority stake in NBC Universal revenue would have been up 4 percent.
"We expect continued volatility in 2012 and have prepared for it by investing in new products and technology, expanding our growth-market footprint and taking important steps to strengthen risk management," said Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, in a statement. "We are restructuring our business in Europe to reflect market conditions."
Investors said Europe's financial crisis was taking a toll on the company.
"In December, GE indicated that it was managing Europe well. Now that's what is pointed to for the light revenue. I think that's kind of a weak excuse," said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "I was hoping the reason for the light revenue was because of the capital business.
GE kicked off a wave of earnings reports from big U.S. manufacturers, with blue-chip peers United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) and 3M Co (MMM.N) all due to follow suit over the next week.
As of Thursday's closed, GE shares had risen about 2 percent over the past year, lagging the 6 percent rise of the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI.
GE shares were down 47 cents at $18.68 in premarket trading from Thursday's close at $19.15.
Reporting By Scott Malone in Boston, additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Derek Caney