General Electric (NYSE:GE) seems to have fallen out of Wall Street's good graces -- for now. JPMorgan recently raised key concerns about the conglomerate's shares, saying that there were limited upside catalysts for the stock in 2014. Although Wall Street analysts present solid arguments and helpful insights, their outlooks sometimes serve to the detriment of long-term investors.
Long-term investors can't, and shouldn't, use a few data points that explain a slight share price dip to inform investment decisions with long-term time scales. Instead, they should focus on the bigger picture, identifying underlying growth drivers and assessing the impact on their investment. On this point, GE has compelling growth drivers that underpin its growth narrative for the near term, medium term, and long term.
To start, GE will continue to gain on an improving global economy. The International Monetary Fund recently upgraded its 2014 global growth forecast to 3.7%, from the previous 3.6%. In the same vein, investors are finally gaining an appreciation of the fact that the Fed's decision to scale back on its bond-buying program was informed by tangible evidence of economic improvement rather than speculation.
As the global economic picture brightens, most nations, including the U.S., will prioritize the expansion of infrastructure to accommodate the renewed appetite for business. This is a huge boon for the industrial side of GE's business. In the past quarter, GE's industrial earnings jumped 12%, outstripping overall earnings growth, which grew 4.7% year on year to come in at $4.2 billion. In addition, six out of seven segments in GE's industrial business actively contributed to growth. The positive broader economic conditions in 2014 should drive GE's fast-growing industrial business even higher in the near term, acting as a catalyst for share price appreciation.
In the medium term, the continued iconic rise of the United States' oil and gas sector will provide a crucial lift for GE. This has previously been the case as demonstrated in the past quarter where oil pump sales greatly contributed to GE's profitability. Going forward, increased oil production in the U.S. will translate into even more sales for the company.
More notably, GE recently sold 24 new ES44C4 locomotives to Florida East Coast Railway. While this deal is undoubtedly small in comparison to GE's typical scale of operations, it is part of a wider play that could mint billions for GE. GE is making more inroads into the railroad business, which has received an unprecedented boost from the oil boom.
According to the Association of American Railroads, there were roughly 9,500 carloads of crude oil running the rails in the U.S. in 2008. By 2013, there were more than 400,000. This explosive growth signals great opportunities for GE. The company has the scale and finances to ink lucrative deals with crude-by-rail companies.
On the speculative end, there could even be more business coming GE's way if oil producers' current push for lifting the 40-year crude oil export ban is successful. This is because there will be more crude oil running the rails to meet high foreign demand, presenting multiple earning opportunities for GE.
In the far future, GE will need to establish new growth pillars. Competition in developed markets has reached new highs and markets have become saturated. However, in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the only way that things could go is up.
During his 2013 visit to SSA, President Obama unveiled the "Power Africa" plan, a $7 billion energy plan aimed at filling Africa's gaping energy deficit. The plan intends to bring 10,000 MW of electricity to Africa, of which GE has committed to 5,000 MW.
While GE's commitment in the deal won't present immediate boosts to its bottom line, it creates a platform to stage deeper forays into Africa. The continent is growing incredibly fast, repeatedly posting economic growth figures that outstrip the global average. In addition, high global commodity prices have put its mining sector into overdrive, further magnifying the need for reliable infrastructure, affordable energy and innovative industrial solutions. Through the "Power Africa" plan, GE will be able to establish strategic linkages that will be instrumental in securing numerous deals along the way.
GE's business is not only headed in the right direction, its stock is also attractive. Despite the lingering effects of the financial crisis, GE shares have gained more than 120% in the past five years. Considering the brightened economic prospects and well-defined growth catalysts ahead, there appears to be more room to run.
The stock also offers an attractive dividend yield, at 3.55%; this offers great incentive for long-term growth investors looking to add a little income along the way. Clearly, the claim that GE lacks upside catalysts is overblown. If anything, the current bearishness presents the perfect opportunity to establish a long position.