General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) shares plunged 12.8% last week while setting a new 52-week low each day. No surprise then that GE continues its reign as the worst performing equity on the Dow Jones Industrial Average index. For the year to date, GE stock has dropped 34.2%.
This is GE’s 15th consecutive week as the Dow’s worst performer. The company still has a big lead over the second worst stock, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), down 8.45% for the year, and third-worst International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), now down 7.42%. Only seven of the 30 Dow stocks have traded down so far this year.
Unlike the prior week, GE had no big news, just a steady stream of investors heading for the exits. When the company reported third-quarter earnings in the prior week, the numbers were bad, but the company’s generous dividend was not touched. GE clearly hoped that would slow, if not stop, the bleeding, but investors clearly believe a dividend cut is inevitable.
New CEO John Flannery has pledged an additional $1 billion in cost cutting to bring expenses down by $3 billion next year. Flannery also plans to divest another $20 billion in assets, simplify the company’s financial reporting, ground its executive aircraft, and get rid of the executive car lease program. Several top executives have been shown the door, and Flannery added a representative of Nelson Peltz’s Trian Management to the board.
Those changes may have been necessary, but they are not sufficient. Flannery is due to present his longer run strategy to investors on November 13 and everyone is expecting some specificity. Trouble is, most also expect a dividend cut.
GE’s shares closed down about 2.5% Friday, at $20.79 in a 52-week range of $20.64 to $32.38. The low was set Friday morning. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $25.93, down nearly $2 from last week’s target. The price target range is $19 to $36.