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Expect to Wait for General Electric Stock to Turn Around

Thomas Niel

General Electric (NYSE:GE) stock is reeling after an earnings disappointment. Shares in the conglomerate have fallen more than 10% since announcing earnings July 31. The GE stock price opened at $10.76 on July 31, and has since slid to a close of $9.57 on August 6.

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With quarterly sales down 1%, and total orders down 4%, the turnaround led by CEO Lawrence Culp remains a work in progress. Since 2018, investors have tried to call a bottom in GE stock. Some said the bottom would be $10 a share, only to see the stock fall as low as $6.51 a share in December. While shares have appreciated since the start of 2019, this recent earnings disappointment calls into the question the rebound of General Electric stock.

So what is the verdict on GE stock? Is the company’s turnaround plan still in motion, or will the company experience additional headwinds? Let’s take a closer look, and see whether investors can expect upside in the GE stock price.

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A Closer Look at General Electric Stock

As mentioned above, GE’s second quarter 2019 earnings failed to meet expectations. The year-over-year revenue declines were largely attributable to issues in the Power segment. The unit saw sales drop 25% from the prior year’s quarter. Segment profits were down 71%. But GE’s other units had performance issues of their own. The company’s Renewable Energy segment saw significant revenue growth (26% year-over-year), but posted a segment loss of $184 million. Aviation saw sales bump up 5%, but segment profits were down 6% from the prior year’s quarter.

Healthcare was the only segment that saw an improvement in operating earnings, with quarterly segment profit up 3% from the second quarter of 2018. The Oil & Gas unit saw a 7% revenue increase, but a 2% decline in segment profit. GE Capital, the company’s most complex and troubled segment, was able to trim losses from continued operations. Combined with gains from discontinued operations, GE Capital earned $148 million in the second quarter.

But despite this tepid performance, the company has improved their outlook for 2019. In March, the company projected revenue growth in the low-to-mid single digits for the year. Now, the company believes sales will grow in the mid-single digits. The adjusted EPS (earnings-per-share) forecast has improved from a range of 50 cents to 60 cents, up to a range of 55 cents to 65 cents. GE even reduced their projected restructuring costs from $2.4-$2.7 billion, down to $1.7-$2 billion.

In the short-term, GE stock faces headwinds. Long-term, the Culp-led turnaround is still in play. Does this make General Electric stock a buy today? Let’s take a look at valuation and see if investors should buy at the current GE stock price.


GE Stock Valuation: In Line With Peers

General Electric stock currently trades at a forward Price-to-Earnings (Forward P/E) ratio of 21.7. The company’s trailing twelve month Enterprise Value/EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) ratio is 13.5. Here are the valuations of GE’s peers in the industrial conglomerate space:

Danaher (NYSE:DHR): Forward P/E of 24.7, EV/EBITDA of 21.9

Honeywell (NYSE:HON): Forward P/E of 18.8, EV/EBITDA of 14.3

Textron (NYSE:TXT): Forward P/E of 12, EV/EBITDA of 9

3M (NYSE:MMM): Forward P/E of 16.2, EV/EBITDA of 14

United Technologies (NYSE:UTX): Forward P/E of 15, EV/EBITDA of 12

The valuation of GE stock is in line with peers. GE’s EV/EBITDA number may be skewed by the GE Capital unit, which utilizes a great deal of leverage. Nevertheless, investors are not paying a premium for General Electric stock. On the other hand, they are not getting a tremendous bargain. But with the company in the midst of a turnaround, operating earnings could materially improve, helping to boost the GE stock price.

But with recent stumbles, can Lawrence Culp successfully pull off a turnaround? As the former CEO of Danaher, investors have high expectations for his skills as an operator. Danaher saw significant long-term stock appreciation thanks to its ability to generate high operating margins from mature industrial businesses. Can Culp do the same for GE?

Bottom Line: GE Stock Has Potential

General Electric stock has potential. But many stocks have “potential.” The question is whether the company can pull off a turnaround, remaking itself as a high-margin industrial conglomerate. If Culp can do for GE what he did at Danaher, the company could see not only improvements in earnings, but an enhanced stock valuation. This means significant upside in the GE stock price.

For investors entering the stock today, do not expect things to turn around by next quarter. In fact, I would not be surprised if GE stock took another tumble. But for long-term investors looking to make a contrarian bet, GE is a strong opportunity.

As of this writing, Thomas Niel did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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