This company is a terrific all-around play on the recovering US economy and cheap natural gas, notes Brian Hicks of The Wealth Advisory.
The General Electric (GE) conglomerate is so big and diverse, it can be a little intimidating. GE has several business segments: There's GE Aviation making airplane engines and GE Power & Water makes power systems for utilities and industrial plants.
There's also GE Healthcare, GE Appliances, GE Lighting, and GE Capital... and GE makes locomotives (diesel and natural gas) in its GE Transportation division.
The first item we must address for General Electric is GE Capital. While this business segment was a huge source of growth, it also was a huge source of leverage. And the leveraged exposure to the US consumer nearly crushed the company during the financial crisis. Shares fell as low as $7.
Today GE Capital still makes up around 33% of GE. But the asset base is shrinking. At the end of 2012, GE Capital had $418 billion. In the first quarter of 2013, it was down to $402 billion.
General Electric has said it wants to get the asset base down to the $300 to $350 billion range. This is by design, as it wants the financial arm to be a smaller part of the company (and given what happened in 2008-2009, who can blame them?).
Some analysts suggest General Electric may even be mulling a big asset sale out of GE Capital that could raise as much as $80 billion. No doubt such a deal would send shares higher.
Power is perhaps the area of GE we like best. The company is a one-stop shop for all your power needs. It has natural gas turbines, wind turbines, nuclear, and solar. It can provide small factories with power generation capabilities and also outfit a utility company.
Tugboats with General Electric engines work the Panama Canal, and we may see natural gas locomotives pulling Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern trains in the near future. All of Boeing's new Dreamliner Airplanes feature General Electric engines.
Back in 2000, General Electric was a $60 stock and paid $0.31 a year in dividends. It's clearly a better value now at ~$24 a share. And there is solid upside for the dividend.
GE is only distributing around 75% of its free cash as dividends and share buybacks. There is room for more to be allocated to shareholders, and it should be by the end of this year.
GE also trades with a current P/E of 17 and a forward number of 13. That tells us that analysts are expecting pretty good earnings growth. If achieved, it would mean a 30% move higher in the stock price.
We expect there is a very good chance that GE outperforms earnings expectations as natural gas adoption accelerates. That's why we have a 12-month, $31 price target on the shares. We will rate GE a strong buy under $24.
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