Two months ago, when Stephen Simpson and I were reviewing all of the components of the Dow, I wrote the following about General Electric
I'd wait on GE until its yield exceeds 3% or its P/E multiple falls to around 15. With the regular dividend currently yielding 2.5%, a 3% yield would not require the stock to drop much from here, and such a price point is entirely possible in the next 12 months.
As I write this, GE is trading at $33.30 and, with its dividend now at $1, its shares yield the 3% target I was looking for. However, that forecast wasn't rocket science. GE was due to raise its dividend -- which it did by 13.6%, from $0.88 to $1 -- and equities are volatile, even large companies like GE. Combine these two factors, and it was likely (though not guaranteed) that an opportunity such as the one we're seeing today was going to come along.
The market appears to be serving up this opportunity because GE reported fourth-quarter revenue of "only" $40.71 billion, less than analyst estimates of $42.1 billion. In addition, GE reported a large $2.9 billion loss from its discontinued insurance operations during the quarter. However, this was expected, and GE met earnings estimates after adjusting for one-time items. While some may think the insurance losses marred the quarter, I don't agree. GE has struggled with its insurance business the last few years, but that is finally coming to an end. The remaining industrial and financial businesses are the company's bread and butter, and far more predictable than insurance.
In fact, aside from the loss from discontinued operations, GE performed quite well in 2005. Revenues for full-year fiscal 2005 were up 11%, including organic sales growth of 8%. Earnings per diluted share from continuing operations were $1.72 per share on record net income of $18.28 billion, which is a 10% improvement from last year. In short, GE looks quite healthy, and it's growing at a strong pace for a company of its size.
Now it's time to eat some humble pie. In that same article two months ago, I also mentioned that I was skeptical of GE's ability to grow at double-digit rates over the next three to five years. While my opinion hasn't changed, the company is forecasting double-digit earnings growth of 13%-17% for fiscal 2006. That's impressive, and more than I expected.
Normally, I'm not a huge fan of industrial conglomerates, but GE isn't the only industrial conglomerate with a relatively attractive share price. United Technologies
For more general Foolishness:
3M and Tyco are both Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations.
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