The Real Reason to Buy GE (Hint: It’s Not Immelt’s Departure)
Today, industrial conglomerate General Electric (NYSE: GE) makes many investors yawn. I’ll explain why this under-appreciated blue chip should make you salivate.
GE traces its origins to 1878, when Thomas Edison tapped the financial backing of J.P. Morgan to form the Edison Electric Light Company, to facilitate development of the light bulb.
General Electric was officially born in 1892 from a merger between Edison’s company and the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. In 1896, GE was one of the original 12 companies listed on the newly formed Dow Jones Industrial Average. GE is the only one of the original companies still listed on the Dow index.
Fast forward to 2017. The company remains the ultimate symbol of America’s “Big Iron,” but in an era of fast-moving Silicon Valley innovators, GE is widely perceived as stodgy and, well, boring.
However, analysts consistently miss the point about GE and this week has been no exception. You might be surprised to learn exactly why I rate the stock an enthusiastic buy.
Meet the new boss…
Wall Street cheered on Monday, pushing up GE stock by 4% for the day, when the company announced that it would replace long-time CEO Jeffrey Immelt with John Flannery, a GE veteran with a reputation for shrewd deal making. (Pictured: Immelt on the right, with Flannery.)
Flannery also enjoys renown as a turnaround artist and is credited with rejuvenating GE’s once-struggling $18 billion-a-year health care division.
Flannery told analysts on Monday that he would launch a “comprehensive review” of all GE businesses “with speed, urgency and no constraints.”
Translation: the new CEO, who takes over August 1, plans to ruthlessly shed under-performing divisions, streamline operations, and get the company into leaner, more profitable shape. Immelt will remain as chairman until he retires on Dec. 31.
Indeed, GE is a sprawling presence, from jet engines to electrical generators to drug research to oil and gas development. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the company experienced an existential threat as its overextended GE Capital financial division threatened to sink the entire company.
In 2008, nearly 50% of General Electric’s revenue came from service businesses. The Great Recession was a wake-up call, prompting GE to get back to its core competencies. After GE sloughed off NBCUniversal and the bulk of its financing arm, more than 90% of its revenue now comes from industrial businesses.
GE’s lasting source of power…
The press loves a human interest story, but put aside the glib commentary about Immelt. Here’s the real reason this stock is a long-term buy: the unstoppable spread of global conflict.
GE is the world’s leading maker of jet aircraft engines, for the commercial and military sectors. In particular, the company’s grip on military contracts buffers it against the cyclical ups-and-downs of the markets and global economy.
Even if the squabbling politicians in Washington, DC fail to enact most of Donald Trump’s pro-business agenda, at least one of Trump’s promises already is coming true: massive increases in defense spending. That means U.S. defense firms such as GE will remain awash in a stream of orders for high-margin, big-ticket items.
The U.S. generates more foreign sales of weapons systems than any other nation on earth; one of America’s fastest-growing military export niches is aircraft. Fixed-wing combat airplanes account for one third of all global arms transfers, with U.S.-based manufacturers topping the list of sellers.
The London-based research group Defence IQ estimates that 4,000 military jet fighters valued between $260 billion-$367 billion will be procured around the world over the next 15 years.
General Electric built America’s first jet engine, during World War II. Today, for fixed wing fighters, GE engines are found on the Super Hornet fleet built by Boeing (NYSE: BA); they serve as the backbone for the U.S. Marine Corps fighter fleet; and they power other combat aircraft in 13 countries. GE also makes engines for Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) F-16 Fighting Falcon, the most popular export aircraft in the world.
In the rotorcraft sphere, GE engines are found on the Boeing AH-64 Apache; Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk variants and CH-53K (Sikorsky is a division of Lockheed Martin); and the Bell AH-1W SuperCobra (Bell is a division of Textron (NYSE: TXT).
The upside potential also is enormous in the commercial jet engine business. Commercial aviation is undergoing a resurgence that should extend through 2017 and beyond. GE engines power many commercial passenger aircraft, notably Boeing’s revolutionary, composite-built Dreamliner 787.
Small wonder, then, that GE plans to invest $3.5 billion in its aviation unit by the end of 2017. Much of this investment will be plowed into research and development to make its engines less noisy, easier to maintain, more fuel efficient and “greener.” Aviation now accounts for roughly a quarter of GE’s annual industrial revenue, a percentage that will only grow over the coming years.
The financial press emphasizes GE’s new CEO and retreat from financial services — two wise strategic moves for the company, to be sure. But you should also keep an eye on rising tensions in the South China Sea, the Middle East, and wherever cash-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia are opening their national treasuries to buy GE-powered combat aircraft.
General Electric’s stock has dropped 9.25% year to date, but it’s poised for a turnaround. GE shares trade at a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 26.6, roughly in line with its peers.
Comments or questions? You can reach me at: email@example.com — John Persinos
GE gives energy the “thumbs up”…
General Electric gave the recovering energy sector a big vote of approval, when last year it created a $32 billion oil business by combining its petroleum-related operations with Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield drilling services firms.
We’re high on the energy sector, too, but you need to look beyond the obvious plays.
One stealth play in the energy patch is “frac sand,” a so-called proppant designed to keep an induced hydraulic fracture open, during or following a fracturing treatment.
An advanced, high-purity sand compound known as Augmented SiO2 is being used to unlock the second largest oil field on the planet. This material is so critical to the fracking process that some oil producers are paying up to five times the normal price for it, and demand is booming.
The last time there was a breakthrough of this magnitude in the energy industry, early investors raked in 469%… 737%… 863%… even up to 3,790% profits. Starting today, you can too.