December 16, 2015 / 8:34 PM / 3 years ago

GE predicts up to 15 percent rise in 2016 operating income

The logo of U.S. conglomerate General Electric is pictured at the company's site in Belfort, April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

(Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) predicted on Wednesday a double-digit rise in operating earnings in 2016 to between $1.45 and $1.55 a share and said it would return about $26 billion to shareholders, sending its stock up sharply.

The new target is up as much as 14.8 percent from 2015 targets of $1.28 to $1.35 a share. The company returned $32 billion in 2015.

GE shares were up 2.74 percent at $31.15 on the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

GE said it expected double-digit growth in operating profit at its power and energy management businesses, boosted by the acquisition of Alstom SA (ALSO.PA), and single to double-digit growth in its aviation division. Oil and gas would see a double-digit decline, and transportation would see a single-digit decline, the company said.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott and Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney

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