Old reliable Dow component General Electric
Of all the numbers and details GE throws out in its press release to help folks understand the company and its performance, a few stand out. Organic growth was 8%, total revenue growth was 13%, and 11 of GE's businesses reported double-digit earnings growth. Earnings also came in up a strong 16% before accounting changes, continuing the GE tradition of being tight with costs.
I often wonder whether the analysts, given the task of covering GE, like the experience. To truly keep abreast of all the moving parts in GE and its competition -- the company has businesses with billions of dollars in annual sales that get but a sentence in an earnings release -- is a Herculean task, and that's before you get to the financial services side of the business. Much the same could be said of United Technologies
What about individual investors? With the size and diversity of its operations making a detailed analysis of GE even more difficult, I wonder more about them because it's likely not their full-time job. That's not to say what is learned won't be rewarding and educational, but in my experience, there aren't many investors who are into the legwork needed to really understand GE.
What I think most individual investors do with GE is operate with a high level of trust that Jeff Immelt and the team of leaders at each business will steer the ship safely to higher returns. Short of dedicating your life to following GE's operations, there's not much else you can do. Sure, you can keep track of the company's financials relatively easily, but with businesses being bought, sold, and rearranged every year, even that's a tough task.
My advice is to appreciate GE and all that it does, because its list of accomplishments isn't short. But don't confuse historical accomplishments with future investment returns. If you're willing to take the trust route, make sure you're getting a great value with a large yield. Today, GE isn't a very compelling value, and while the dividend yield of 2.5% is fair in today's market, I recommend that investors wait for prices that offer a higher yield, because a company with $163.8 billion in trailing revenues is going to have a tough time sustaining double-digit growth.
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