NEW YORK General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt told company investors Tuesday that NBC Universal would post a profit of $3 billion this year and that the division has a "fighting chance to be flat" in 2009.
But Immelt also cautioned that NBCU could be down "slightly" next year. He said the TV stations business was encountering a "particularly tough" phase.
Overall, however, his tone was upbeat. Because NBCU had diversified both geographically and into the cable-network business, it is better prepared to face the recession and help the company achieve its goal of 10 percent annual profit growth once recovery takes hold, Immelt said.
He also cited the network's move to strip a new Jay Leno program in prime time as one example of how all GE divisions are implementing low-cost innovative ways to boost margins.
Company-wide, GE intends to trim $5 billion from its cost base going forward, a goal that would likely require further headcount reductions and other spending cuts.
Earlier this month, NBCU confirmed it would eliminate 500 jobs as a result of the faltering economy. It was not clear whether the future headcount reductions Immelt suggested would apply to that division as well.
GE intends to achieve "positive margin growth" next year, Immelt told investors, who gathered in New York for the CEO's presentation.