After a rough start to 2018, General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) stock is trading under $15 per share for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately for value investors looking to buy the dip, analysts still see too much risk to recommend taking a chance on GE.
Barclays analyst Julian Mitchell says there is very little clarity about what to expect from GE’s core power business in 2018.
“While the weak share price performance and very negative sentiment towards the name make it screen attractively, we think there are still too many material downside risks (including a likely reduction to the company’s 2018 EPS guidance), and the upside potential in the absence of a major new power cycle is not compelling, given the stretched balance sheet,” Mitchell says.
For now, Mitchell is watching for a clear sign that there will be no more unpleasant surprises uncovered during GE’s restructuring process and management transition, a reliable indication of a bottom in thermal power generation demand or a positive resolution to the ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. Any of these developments could drive substantial upside in GE stock, Mitchell says.
On the other hand, Mitchell says there is real risk that General Electric shareholders could soon get hit with another earnings guidance cut. Earnings before interest and taxes dropped 45 percent last year, and Mitchell says consensus expectations for 2018 may still be too high. Barclays is calling for first-quarter earnings per share of 11 cents compared to consensus estimates of 13 cents. Barclays projects full-year EPS of 95 cents in 2018 and $1.08 in 2019.
Mitchell isn’t alone in questioning GE’s outlook. Following GE’s earnings beat in January, Bank of America analyst Andrew Obin said GE has major cost-cutting opportunities, but it’s still too early for investors to take a gamble on the stock.
“We note that the company has undergone a significant reinvestment cycle, positioning the company well from a competitive standpoint,” Obin says. “However, we do not see the stock outperforming in the face of possible further negative earnings revisions.”
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