If any stock has taken a beating over the past year, it has been General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE). The venerable American industrial giant got the ultimate humiliation of being removed from the Dow Jones industrial average after a stay of over 100 years.
In a huge move to reset the company on firm footing, GE Chair and CEO John Flannery was on CNBC yesterday touting drastic plans to lower the company’s debt and restructure the once-proud icon of American business.
Wall Street took notice, and Wednesday Oppenheimer upgraded the firm’s stock rating. Numerous reasons were cited in the report for the upgrade:
We are upgrading shares to Perform rating from Underperform, based on potential for portfolio plans to unlock some value, and diminish liabilities. GE’s announced break-up plans target a remaining core of Aviation, Power and Renewables, through process of (1) Healthcare separation (current framework for sale of 20%; spin-off or split-off of 80% to GE shareholders within 12-18 months); (2) exit 62.5% stake in Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHGE) over two to three years; and (3) pending transaction for Transportation (target early 2019). We estimate Healthcare could yield $50 billion of equity value, GE’s Baker Hughes stake is worth ~$23.5 billion now, and the Transportation transaction’s value of over $12 billion includes ~$7.5 billion prospective stake for GE shareholders.
The massive restructuring and debt reduction plans come after years of acquisitions and changes in the core business at General Electric, and in some cases, what many on Wall Street thought were ill-advised moves by former CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The company’s once dependable dividend was sliced in half, and many have predicted it would be eliminated altogether.
The Oppenheimer team noted this when discussing its overall thesis for the rating change:
We view the company’s 2018 guidance as predicated on near perfect execution at Aviation and Healthcare, barring contingency that the company sees some pivot in Power fundamentals. The Power cycle contends with view of a secular shift in industry fundamentals, renewables pricing remains a headwind, and the Baker Hughes integration remains early days. We remain watchful for organizational and governance recovery, and prospects that core free cash flow growth can offset planned divestitures, to allow clearer visibility to scaling free cash flow.
We noted recently that one of the best events for long-suffering GE shareholders may be the company’s removal from the Dow, as over the years many companies that were ejected from the index came back stronger and better than ever, and the removal actually proved to be the final low.