Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares of megaindustrial conglomerate General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) are up close to 9% in afternoon trading, a major move for a company of its size. Unfortunately, even after today's move, the stock has under-performed the benchmark S&P 500 over the past five years:
So what: Much of the stock's underperformance has been tied to the company's GE Capital finance arm, which nearly crippled the company during the financial crisis. Management has been promising to shift away from the financial services business, and took a major step in that direction today, announcing a $26.5 billion sale of real estate-related assets to Wells Fargo & Co and private equity group Blackstone.
Now what: There's even more happening, as CEO Jeff Immelt said that the company was launching a new $50 billion share buyback program, and would return up to $90 billion to investors in buybacks and dividends by the end of 2018. Additionally, this move is likely to allow GE to rid itself of the so-called "to big to fail" label as a Systemically Important Financial Institution, which subjects the company to a higher level of government financial oversight.
Frankly, this is a very positive move for GE, and for GE investors. Removing the overhang of its finance arm has been a goal of management for several years, and this is a very real step into turning the company into an industrial-focused powerhouse that's not exposed to another major financial crisis. While this move doesn't make GE a "buy" for every kind of investor, I think anyone looking for a stable blue chip that's focused on returning capital to shareholders would be well served to give it a closer look.