July 26, 2011
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. And when you're a company with a $200 billion market cap already, it seems it takes a lot to move the needle. On Friday, General Electric (NYSE: GE ) reported numbers that would have sent many a lesser stock flying:
- Profits were up 21% to $0.35 per share.
- Infrastructure orders were up 24%.
- Revenues were down 3.5%, but only because GE unloaded its NBC Universal stake on Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) last year. But for that, revs would have risen 7%.
- GE displayed lesser reliance on the finicky and problem-plagued GE Capital business, where revenues declined modestly.
- And greater reliance on GE's industrial core, where contract wins for the firm's LEAP-X jet engine at Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and Airbus helped push the backlog of future business to a record $189 billion.
Meanwhile, the firm's ballyhooed assault on the energy sector is bearing great fruit, with CEO Jeff Immelt promising 17% unit volume growth this year, versus 2010. Across the company, Immelt told investors to expect accelerating sales and earnings growth through 2011 and into 2012. But how did investors react to all this good news?
They sold off GE by nearly half a percent.
What more do you want?
I think the trouble with GE -- and investors' lack of response to its blowout earnings -- is that it's just too big for investors to wrap their brains around. I mean, these guys sell lightbulbs, LEAP-X engines, refrigerators, and nuclear reactors. They dabble in electric cars ... and consumer credit.
The structure goes beyond eclectic. It's downright complicated. So let me boil this down to the essentials: Over the past six months, GE earned $7.2 billion -- 44% more than in H1 2010. Its operating margin now eclipses that of Siemens (NYSE: SI ) by 140 basis points, and is twice as big as Textron (NYSE: TXT ) or Hitachi (NYSE: HIT ) . Management says earnings are also improving -- which suggests better than 44% growth, but let's be conservative and say that by year's end, GE's total haul will be $14.5 billion in profits. At today's market cap, that's less than a 14 P/E on a stock analysts expect to grow 14.6% per year over the next five years -- and a stock that pays a 3.1% annual dividend.
I don't know about you, but GE looks cheap to me.