Financial Advisors Turning Attention at GE as Cost-Cutting and Asset-Shedding Intensifies
US stocks managed to snatch up some gains last week, amid some volatility on the back of a number of developments. The S&P 500 inched up by 0.12%, offset by healthcare stocks, which lost ground during the week after two Republican senators proposed a new healthcare bill that was unfavorably viewed, but managed to recover by Friday afternoon as it became clear that the bill was most likely to be rejected. Telecom sector also helped the S&P 500 gain more ground on Friday amid rumors of a potential merger between Sprint Corp (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US Inc (NYSE:PCS). Dow Jones advanced by 0.36% last week, dragged down by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), which had one of the worst weeks in over a year.
Geopolitics also had affected the stock market performance last week, as tensions between the United States and North Korea escalated. During the week, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called each other names and exchanged threats after President Trump’s address at the United Nations. On Thursday, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the country might consider testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
According to TrackStar, the official newsletter of Investing Channel’s Intuition, in the list of the 20 most searched tickers among financial advisors, the first two spots were taken by companies that were closely watched last week. On the first spot was Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL), which, as stated earlier had one of the worst trading weeks, having dropped by 5%. Earlier this month, Apple has announced several new products, including two new iPhone models, but it is suspected that the demand for the new iPhones is weak. Apple was followed by Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC), whose stock got a big boost on Wednesday together with the rest of the financial sector, following the Federal Reserve’s announcement that it would start the normalization of its balance sheet next month.
Another stock that got more attention from financial advisors last week was General Electric Company (NYSE:GE). GE’s shares climbed by 4% between September 18 and September 22 amid several developments.
On Tuesday, the stock took a hit and was trading around $0.50 above its 52-week low after J. P. Morgan analyst Stephen Tusa reiterated his ‘Underweight’ rating and $22 price target saying that the decline that the stock had registered didn’t make it more attractive. Tusa added that the company’s fundamentals are in a bad shape and cannot be fixed by just reducing costs.
On Wednesday, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) took another step at cost-cutting as the company was said to be in the process of selling its fleet of corporate jets. The new CEO of General Electric, John Flannery, has been trying to find more ways to cut costs as General Electric is struggling with weak financial results. Flannery, who became the CEO last month, has embarked on a mission to reduce costs by $2.0 billion by 2018.
However, the most important news for General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) came on Friday, when Bloomberg reported that the company was about to reach an agreement to sell its industrial solutions business to Swiss engineering company ABB Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:ABB). The deal was reported to be valued between $2.50 billion and $3.0 billion, according to people familiar with the matter cited by Bloomberg.
On Monday, ABB Ltd. confirmed the transaction, which is valued at $2.60 billion and would allow it to have a better presence on the North American market in addition to providing $200 million in cost synergies. The deal between GE and ABB also involves a strategic partnership and an agreement for the long-term use of GE’s brand.
The deal was qualified as successful by analysts, since the division in question has a low profitability. GE’s industrial solutions business makes circuit breakers, switchgear, components for lighting control and power supply equipment. It generated sales of $2.7 billion in 2016, but its earnings before interest, taxes and amortization are just 6% of the revenue. At the same time, ABB, which makes similar products, has a margin of 15%.
In this way, the sale of the Industrial Solutions business has become the first major transaction that GE has executed under the new leadership. Meanwhile, the company has been under pressure from renown activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, who is known for pursuing large companies into cutting costs, shedding assets and spin-offs. Therefore, it’s likely that it’s not the last sale we will see in the next year or so.
So far, this year, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE)’s stock has lost 20%, making it one of the worst-performing Dow components. At the same time, it is trading at almost 29 times earnings, which still makes it very overvalued. So, the question in the end remains whether Stephen Tusa is right and General Electric cannot be fixed just through cost-cutting.