December 16, 2015 / 8:34 PM / in 2 years

GE predicts up to 15 percent rise in 2016 operating income

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

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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