Don’t Take a Chance on General Electric Stock Yet

Stocks to sell

The woes at GE (NYSE:GE) continue to weigh on GE stock. The third-quarter results of the Boston-based industrial conglomerate came in below expectations. But investors were more concerned about the company’s dividend cut and the Department of Justice’s probe of its accounting practices. The news sent GE stock price to its lowest levels since the financial crisis.

The probe could result in more bad news for GE and GE stock at a time when the company desperately needs to restore investors’ confidence in it. Until investors can again trust General Electric, it will become difficult to make money with General Electric stock.

Dividend Cut, Accounting Probe Were the Key Elements of the Results

Before the earnings release, I warned investors to refrain from buying GE stock before the report. I wasn’t worried about GE’s competitors. For now, its peers such as Siemens, Honeywell (NYSE:HON), and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) remain the least of its worries. But before investors can trust GE stock again, all of the bad news about the company needs to be revealed, I stated.

Sure enough, the earnings report included more negative revelations. Specifically, the company cut the quarterly dividend of General Electric stock to a token amount of 1c per share.

Even worse, GE announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would join the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) accounting probe of the company. More than anything, investors need to know that the trickle of bad news about GE stock has indeed ended before they can buy the shares. The DOJ’s involvement will probably further delay the day of reckoning. Moreover, the development increases the likelihood of more bad news coming to light.

Investors And Analysts Are More Bearish on GE Stock

Despite GE’s numerous missteps, I am not yet ready to predict that it will declare bankruptcy. However, the results of the probe remain difficult to predict. Also, given the reluctance GE has shown to describe the true nature of its troubles, it could go belly-up.

John Inch of Gordon Haskett believes GE stock price could fall as low as $5 per share. He also estimates that the company’s total liabilities could exceed $100 billion. That would exceed the current market cap of General Electric stock which is about $82 billion.

For now, investors should look at those possible outcomes as worst-case scenarios. GE’s new CEO, Larry Culp, has only held the position for a few weeks. I believe he needs more time to learn the nature of the company’s troubles before he can divulge them to the public.

Meanwhile, GE just announced that it was selling its commercial lighting business to a private equity firm. That move, along with the dividend cut, will bolster the company’s cash position and begin to renew investors’ confidence in GE stock.

Still, buyers need to wait for more positive news before they can consider buying General Electric stock. The latest report took the GE stock price into the single digits. It has not reached those levels since 2009. Additional negative news could easily push GE stock price to $5 per share or even lower.

The Bottom Line on GE Stock

GE’s need to regain the trust of investors has become more critical following its latest earnings report.

Investors can make an informed decision on GE stock only when the true nature of General Electric’s problems become known. Until that time comes, General Electric stock will not be profitable.

As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.

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