2014 has been yet another great year for stocks. As December is starting to wind the year down, 24/7 Wall St. is getting ready to evaluate the major stocks and sectors for their prospects in 2015. Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) have been among the worst-performing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) stocks this year. So the question is, what could make GE the best DJIA stock of 2015?
Looking at one year’s DJIA losers to see if they can become winners the next year is nothing new. Many investors do just that, and 24/7 Wall St. has evaluated several other of the worst-performing DJIA stocks to see what could make them the best-performing DJIA stocks of 2015 as well. In the case of GE, a company spokesperson even gave us exclusive commentary for what lies ahead.
First and foremost, this is not a prediction that GE will be the best-performing DJIA stock of 2015. There is still half of December to get through, and international markets and oil have not been offering any sort of helping hand at all. As of Wednesday, December 11, on the close, shares of GE were down by 7.5% so far in 2014, and the conglomerate is now among eight of the 30 Dow stocks that went into the red for the year. Only five DJIA stocks were in the red a week earlier.
The first thing to consider is that General Electric is undergoing a massive amount of change. This is more change than the company has seen in a generation. The Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) IPO has launched and risen handily this year, and the remainder of shares are likely to be distributed to GE holders in 2015. The Alstom acquisition is on track, and GE reached a deal in 2014 to sell its appliances unit.
By jettisoning so much of the consumer finance operation under Synchrony, GE aims to be evaluated as an industrial conglomerate rather than half-bank and half-conglomerate. The goal here is simple: to get a higher market multiple on earnings, and GE is now valued at only 14 times expected 2015 earnings. The reality is this could translate to a much higher multiple if the market allows. United Tech trades at 15.5 times next year’s earnings and 3M trades at 19 times next year’s earnings. Could the post-reorg GE suddenly be worth 10% to 25% more based on a rotation of operations under a new valuation? That is the hope.
Another issue is that GE is expected to get a dividend boost at any time now. We have picked GE as one of five DJIA stocks that will get a dividend boost before 2014 ends, and Disney was the first of the five to hike its payout. The only trick here is that technically GE might be able to say that the dividend went up without a formal raise, depending on how it treats the Synchrony distribution.
GE needs the international economies and oil to stabilize. The company has a massive backlog, but securing orders on certain items could be harder if the dollar remains so strong — if those are manufactured in the United States at any rate. GE has made a big push into energy and oil, and the lower oil pricing does not really help any of the players. After all, the oil chart is now looking like the second worst oil chart of our generation. Imagine if oil stabilizes and if Europe, China, Russia and Brazil start to stabilize too. All of a sudden, GE would be the perfect company.
The reality is that it is hard to ever expect GE to be the best-performing DJIA stock because of the fact that GE is so representative of the broad economy. Still, here is what we do know now: GE analysts remain bullish and the consensus price target remains $29.17, versus around $25.35 now and in a 52-week range of $23.69 to $28.09. The highest analyst price target is up at $32. That means that the consensus price target implies 15% upside, plus GE’s yield of 3.4% or so (and maybe higher if hiked) has to be added on to that. Most analysts do not have upside of nearly 20% on other DJIA components for the year ahead.
24/7 Wall St. asked GE to comment on its year ahead and on its changes. GE spokesperson Seth Martin told us:
As our CEO Jeff Immelt has told investors, we are changing the portfolio to position GE for long-term growth. This year’s portfolio moves have made GE more focused on its strengths in core infrastructure and technology. We have a big backlog, market diversity, strong recurring revenue and a well-established cost-out program. We believe this positions us well to deliver in a volatile world.
In our 2014 bull and bear case, we showed that GE analysts were only predicting upside of about 3% at that time, but that was after a 38% gain in 2013, and GE shares were closer to $28 at that time versus around $25 now.
Could GE end up being the best DJIA stock of 2015? Anything is possible, of course. The difference between this year and the prior years is that at least it does not look like such a long shot as it may have in other years. After all, the GE of 2016 is going to look a lot different from the GE we have all gotten to know in the past decade or two. Now it will be up to Wall Street investors to decide how to fairly value the company. Credit Suisse gave its first look at how to value GE after its divestments.
Again, it remains too soon to call which of the 30 DJIA stocks will be the best performing of 2015. The similar view has been reviewed for the following DJIA stocks: