US conglomerate General Electric on Friday posted a solid 48 percent year-on-year rise in third quarter net earnings to $3.27 billion, but was down nearly a half billion from the second quarter. Earnings per share were up 22 percent, to 22 cents from 18 cents a year earlier. GE said that excluding the effects of a $3.3 billion buyback completed just this week of Berkshire Hathaway\'s preferred shares -- which earn particularly high dividends -- earnings per share would be 31 cents. \"We are pleased to deliver our sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit operating earnings growth in a volatile macro environment,\" chief executive Jeff Immelt said in a statement. \"We ended the quarter with a record high order backlog of $191 billion and we remain confident in our full year 2011 operating framework.\" Total revenues, at $35.4 billion, were flat from a year earlier, and $200 million lower than the previous quarter. The company said industrial orders grew 16 percent year on year, while earnings from its large financial arm, GE Capital, hit $1.5 billion, a rise of 79 percent from the third quarter 2010. Immelt said the company had boosted the financial strength of GE Capital, increasing its capital base and reducing leverage; GE Capital\'s problems severely weakened the overall company during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The company forecast improved earnings per share in the fourth quarter after the buyout of Berkshire\'s shares, executed on October 17. Berkshire, led by billionaire Warren Buffett, came to GE\'s rescue in 2008, giving it $3 billion for preferred shares that would pay a 10 percent dividend annually, and cost GE another 10 percent to redeem. GE said it was confident in its business growth for 2012, forecasting \"double digit\" growth in earnings per share. The company, which makes aircraft engines, energy and medical equipment, has a major financial unit and owns a 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal media entertainment group, is often seen as a bellwether of the economy.