Industrials

How Value Investors Rank GE, United Tech and 3M Against Each Other

With the summer here and earnings season more than a month away, investors have been searching for value analysis during a time when market uncertainty is elevated. After all, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went into the red on Tuesday and some investors are worried about a market pullback.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to conduct a valuation analysis in the top three industrial conglomerates: General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) and 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM). The first admission here is that value investors are likely to find GE or United Tech much more attractive than 3M, but for very different reasons.

In order to come up with good valuation analysis, we selected current valuations against each company’s stated book value, even though book value is honestly a very convoluted measurement today. Also considered were dividends, forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios based on next year’s consensus earnings estimates from Thomson Reuters, and other key metrics taking place in each company.

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General Electric

GE has a price-to-book value of 2.54 to 1. Counting book value during a restructuring and unit sales effort of this size seems worth very little. GE’s market cap is almost $278 billion, making it the largest of the large industrial conglomerates. Its forward P/E is about 17.7. With a consensus target price of $30.15 from Thomson Reuters, GE has implied upside exceeding 10.3%, before adding in the 3.4% dividend and before considering the effects of the Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) spin-off later this year.

GE’s shares recently closed at $27.33, and the 52-week price range is $23.41 to $28.68. The company is still in the process of shedding its many financial assets to become an industrial conglomerate. The caveat that investors should consider here is that analysts often have a hard time factoring in spin-offs and divestitures. That being said, GE is about to embark on one of the largest share buybacks of all-time — and that is after already buying back billions upon billions worth of common stock. GE shares are up 9% so far in 2015.

United Technologies

UTC is valued at about 3.6 times its book value. This sounds high, but there are other metrics to consider, and it is not out of the norm at all in industrials. Its market cap is $104 billion, making it closer to 3M and less than half of GE. Its forward P/E is closer to 15, making it look cheaper than many industrial rivals.

With a consensus target price of $133.56, United Tech has an implied upside of almost 15%, before considering the 2.2% dividend yield. Its shares recently closed at $116.30, and the 52-week trading range is $97.30 to $124.45. United Tech shares are up about 2.2% so far in 2015.

3M

3M is valued at about 7.0 times its book value. While the company has been growing, this is a higher stated valuation for the so-called value investors. Its market cap is $101 billion, making it barely the smallest of the three industrial conglomerates here, behind United Tech. Its forward valuation is 18.5 times next year’s earnings estimates, which is also the highest valuation of the conglomerates.

3M’s consensus analyst target price of $168.38 leaves implied upside of about 7.3%, before getting into the 2.6% dividend yield. 3M shares recently closed at $156.98, and the 52-week trading range is $130.60 to $170.50. As far as how 3M has done so far in 2015, its shares were last seen in the red by about 3.2%.

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So, which one of the three industrial conglomerates is the current winner for value investors in the summer of 2015? The answer: it’s complicated!

What we are seeing here is that the industrial conglomerates are very hard to value against each other. True value investors may currently prefer United Tech over GE or 3M. Restructuring and special situation investors may prefer GE. Dividend and buyback investors also may prefer GE, which helped 24/7 Wall St. keep GE in the 10 stocks to own for the next decade. As for 3M, its merits have been around slow and steady growth as the justification for a much higher valuation on book value and P/E ratios.