The Next Best Thing to Buying GM

11/25/2010 10:00 am EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

Jim is taking a holiday. Here is a review of his recent upgrade of Johnson Controls to tide you over until Monday.

General Motors’ (NYSE: GM) stock offering turned out to be so popular that it was massively oversubscribed and the company increased the price to $33 a share.

Doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations and making assumptions that the company’s fourth quarter will be decent, the Financial Times calculated that GM shares at $33 a share the stock sold for 11.5 times projected 2010 earnings. At the $35 opening price, I calculate that the shares traded for 11.8 times projected 2010 earnings. That compares to 8.1 times for Ford (NYSE: F).

The sudden enthusiasm for things auto has had me trawling through the space looking for companies that sell into the auto industry—but that don’t face the daunting task of figuring out some way to make money in a global car industry that’s awash in excess manufacturing capacity.

An auto industry supplier like Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), with a 15% exposure to the US Big Three (or whatever we call them these days) and a big and growing market share in China, caught my eye yesterday because the company raised its dividend by 23% to 16 cents a share from 13 cents. That will raise the yield on an annual basis only to 1.7%, but dividend increases, especially substantial dividend increases like this, are an indicator that the company’s board of directors feels very positive about the medium-term trends in the company’s business. (Johnson Controls is a member of both my Jubak's Picks and Jubak Picks 50 Portfolio.)

Johnson Controls isn’t just coming out of bankruptcy. It doesn’t still have to sell a sizable stake held by the US government. It has a growing business in hybrid auto batteries. Yet it sells for just 14.9 times projected fiscal year 2011 earnings. (The company’s fiscal year ends in September 2011.)

As of November 18, I’m raising my target price for Johnson Controls to $42 by January 2011 from my previous target price of $39 a share by January 2011.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Johnson Controls as of the end of the September quarter. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund’s portfolio here.

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