General Motors (GM) made a splash today by announcing that Mary Barra would become its next CEO. Barra would be the first woman to ever lead a U.S. automaker, and while the excitement wasn’t reflected in a slightly retreating GM stock price, this is a noteworthy breakthrough for an industry with a macho, rough-around-the-edges image.
I expect GM stock to put up impressive returns in 2014, but it actually has little to do with Mary Barra.
No matter who is at the helm, the pieces are coming together for GM stock to enjoy a fantastic run.
How GM Stock Looks Heading Into 2014
I’ll start with the elephant in the room: The federal government’s ownership and effective control of the company.
General Motors was rechristened “Government Motors” by its detractors (including myself) after the company was forced to accept a bankruptcy micro-managed by the government in 2009 and a very large bailout. GM’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy was the fourth-largest in U.S. history and resulted in the federal government becoming the company’s largest holder of GM stock.
The government isn’t particularly efficient in running its own affairs, let alone those of a for-profit business. The good news, however, is that GM is now officially free of government ownership.
Aside from the obvious good news that management will be free to run the company without government meddling, this also means the automaker will have a lot more latitude to reinstate a regular dividend to GM stock.
This news is not exactly new; although the government just recently liquidated the last of its shares, it had been reducing its stake since late 2010, when General Motors pulled off what was then the biggest IPO in U.S. history. And investors certainly have been warming up to GM stock; year-to-date, shares are up over 40%.
But even after the recent run, GM stock remains quite cheap.
General Motors shares trade for just 8.7 times expected 2014 earnings and an almost pitiful 0.37 times sales. To put this in perspective, Daimler (DDAIF) — my pick in InvestorPlace’s Best Stocks of 2013 contest — trades for 14.3 times expected 2014 earnings and 0.58 times sales.
Now, to be clear, as a premium automaker with fantastic exposure to emerging markets, Daimler should trade at a slight premium to GM stock. But if you believe that the global economy will see respectable growth in 2014, then you have to believe that both are undervalued at these levels.
Several widely followed investors have been accumulating shares of late. Warren Buffett, George Soros and Joel Greenblatt have all made significant purchases in the past six months, and Kyle Bass — an outspoken Japan bear that I follow — has recently made a large investment, noting in a recent Bloomberg interview that he expected to see significant dividend and share buyback announcements soon.
If you want a low-risk bet for 2014, pick up GM stock.
And if you want to spread your bets, consider picking up shares of rival Ford (F) as well. Ford trades for 9.1 times expected 2014 earnings and 0.45 times sales — roughly in line with GM.
Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. As of this writing, he was long DDAIF. Check out his new premium service, Macro Trend Investor, which includes a free copy of his e-book, The New Megatrend Investor: The Ultimate Buy-and-Hold Strategy That Will Make You Rich.