GE Shares, Down 20%, Put Drag on Dow

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 11.2% this year to 21,999. Its performance would be better if one of its 30 components, General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), was not off 20.4% to $25. It is the worst performing stock in the index.

GE has been hammered by a string of bad news. Warren Buffett sold 100% of his position in the company’s stock, liquidating more than $300 million in shares. Buffett rarely exits a stock so quickly.

GE’s earnings have been horrible recently. In the most recent quarter, “revenue and other income” dropped 12% to $29.6 billion. Net income was down 52% to $1.4 billion. Explaining the numbers, departing CEO Jeff Immelt said:

The US is stable at a slow growth rate, global growth is accelerating, but resource markets remain challenging.

Our top-line results are solid. In the second quarter, our organic results were: orders up 5%, revenue up 2%, margins expanded by 10 basis points, and industrial profit grew by 4%. At the half, orders are up 6%, revenues up 4%, margins expanded by 70 basis points, and industrial profit grew by 11%.

Investors were stupefied that management did not have a better and clearer explanation of what happened in the quarter.

And there is the question of Immelt’s tenure. He was hustled out the door when the company announced on June 12 that he could be gone from the CEO role on August 1. He will give up the chairman’s job at the end of this year. Immelt has had the job since 2001. Some investors were concerned that he will be replaced by an insider. CEO in waiting John Flannery has been with GE since 1987.

Wall Street has not bought into the appointment of Flannery as a way to turn around GE. Some would have preferred an outsider. If GE’s stock is going to be a net positive contributor to the Dow, Flannery’s stamp will have to be very positive, very soon. Otherwise, it could be the worst performing Dow stock for the full year.