GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., reported net income of $4 billion Friday on revenue of $39.3 billion for the quarter. Last year during the same period the company earned $3.7 billion on sales of $38 billion. Per share earnings rose to 38 cents from 35 cents last year.
The company's operating profit per share was 44 cents, a penny higher than analysts polled by FactSet expected. GE's revenue also beat analysts' expectations of $38.8 billion.
GE shares rose 71 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $22.01 about a half hour before the market opening.
In a statement, CEO Jeff Immelt said the outlook for developed markets remained uncertain, but China and other emerging markets, along with regions that are exploiting natural resources, are growing.
Immelt has been reshaping GE, focusing on its more traditional industrial operations, such as making complex industrial equipment and providing services to industrial companies. GE also makes refrigerators, CT-scanners, wind turbines, gas turbines and engines for jets and trains. In a new push, it also provides equipment and services to the oil and gas industry.
The company is shrinking its banking division and trimming other non-industrial operations like commercial real estate.
Immelt is also making a push to streamline the company's operations to better integrate recent acquisitions and reduce costs.
The shift has led to higher profit margins, a trend that continued in the fourth quarter. GE reported that profits at all seven of its industrial segments grew, with growth topping 10 percent at four of them - oil and gas, energy management, aviation and transportation.
Daniel Holland, an analyst at Morningstar, said he was encouraged to see the cost-cutting measures show up in improved profitability, and that the company's results reflected better performance in nearly every division.
"A lot of what they've been talking about is coming to fruition," he said. "And it's pretty broad-based across the portfolio."
In recent quarters GE's revenue has slipped slightly after it sold non-industrial assets like NBC Universal, and this has concerned investors. In the fourth quarter, though, revenue grew 4 percent from a year earlier.
"It's definitely important to see revenue growth," Holland said. "That's something that had been keeping investors from getting excited."
For all of 2012, GE posted net income of $13.6 billion, or $1.39 per share, on revenue of $147.4 billion. That's up from net income of $13.1 billion, or $1.24 per share, on revenue of $147.3 billion in 2011.
The company expects revenue and profit growth to continue this year. GE said its backlog of new business reached $210 billion, its highest ever. During the fourth quarter the company announced new contracts with Petrobras in Brazil and with Chevron in Angola to help those oil companies extract oil from deep waters off shore. It also announced orders for jet engines to power 50 airplanes for Alaska Airlines.