Why JPMorgan Says It Is Time to Sell General Electric

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is the top American conglomerate by market capitalization, and the company has been in a multiyear transformation. GE’s stock has also surged off of the lows under $10 during the Great Recession. Many analysts and investors see continued upside ahead. Just don’t tell that to the team at JPMorgan.

Thursday’s top analyst downgrades and negative analyst reports included a big new Underweight rating on GE from JPMorgan. The firm also assigned a $27 price target, implying roughly 11% downside from the $30.34 closing price, without consideration of the dividend yield. An Underweight rating carries the same implication as an “underperform” rating. It is code for “sell.”

GE shares were last seen down more than 1% after this negative report said that GE’s earnings goals to 2018 will remain elusive. The firm sees the oil and gas segment of GE acting as a major headwind. Even though oil has recovered, the report fears that GE’s oil and gas related profits could be half of what they were just in 2015.

Thursday’s call is despite the admission that GE has a huge backlog and a massive buyback plan that is already underway and expected to grow. Steve Tusa, the analyst behind the call, sees $2.00 per share for 2018 as problematic. He said:

While recognizing a bold portfolio transformation, and solid technology potential, we think these positives are more than reflected in GE stock at current levels.

The price target at 10% or so under the current price was based on GE’s price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio being roughly a 10% premium. That being said, the free cash flow premium for 2018 remains a much larger premium to peers.

GE shares have slid since its first-quarter earnings report, and slid further on Thursday. Yet, the stock is still up roughly 10%, versus roughly a flat to slightly negative S&P 500.

Note though that Merrill Lynch maintained a Buy rating on GE with a $33 price objective. This was based on a P/E multiple of 18 to expected 2017 expected industrial earnings. The firm also added $6 per share in cash optionality by the end of 2017. GE was still given negative commentary for lower oil and gas results, but that was offset by other operations and Merrill Lynch’s estimates remained the same. The analyst’s view:

We think an ongoing earnings shift from GE Capital to Industrial and a focus on Industrial execution turnaround will likely support multiple expansion into 2016.

GE shares were last seen down 1.2% at $29.98. Its consensus analyst price target is $33.23 and its 52-week trading range is $19.37 to $32.05.

24/7 Wall St. ran a bullish and bearish case for GE in 2016 at the start of the year. This was looking for less than 5% in total return, and over half of that total return was expected to come from its dividend.

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