General Motors (NYSE:GM) stock has moved into the fast lane this year. So far, the shares are up an impressive 19%.
It’s true that – when you look at a longer time frame – the results are not as impressive. Consider that during the past five years, the average annual return of GM stock was a lumbering 5.54%. Let’s face it: the industry is highly competitive and sensitive to changes in the global economy. There is also the threat of disruptive innovators, such as Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL), Lyft and Uber.
Yet despite all this, I still think GM stock is worth a look. As investors hunt for value plays, this company does fit the bill. Moreover, its management has made some smart moves which are starting to pay off.
So let’s take a deeper look at some of the key drivers of GM stock.
GM Stock Driver: Next-Generation Technologies
GM CEO Mary Barra noted last year: “Autonomous technology that’s safer than a car with a human driver is coming, and it’s going to get better and better and better with technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
The good news is that she hasn’t been only talking about these trends. She has been doing something about them. For example, GM acquired Cruise – an autonomous vehicle startup — for $1 billion in 2016. Barra went on to invest heavily in the business and snagged funding for it from Softbank and Honda (NYSE:HMC). Cruise’s valuation has jumped to a cool $14.6 billion. Additionally, it currently has over 1,100 employees and has made advancements in key areas like EV batteries and fuel cells. Also keep in mind that GM recently announced a deal with Doordash to test the concept of driverless deliveries for restaurants.
Next, GM invested $500 million in Lyft in 2016. Granted, this deal hasn’t panned out as expected, as the companies’ strategies have diverged. But that normally occurs when companies partner with each other. For the most part, GM did learn important information from Lyft and should also realize a nice gain when Lyft launches its IPO, which is expected to occur next month.
GM Stock Driver: Lean And Diversified
As should be no surprise, GM has been facing headwinds in China and South America, as their economies have been decelerating.
Yet GM continues to get traction in North America. In Q4, GM’s adjusted profits before interest and taxes in North America came in at a hefty $10.8 billion, primarily because of the strength of its pick-up truck business. It’s certainly a high-margin category, as the average price of a pick-up is $44,000.
As for the full-year forecast, GM expects its operating profits to increase by close to 20% to $2 billion. The main reason for the expected jump is its aggressive restructuring, which includes layoffs and plant closings.
Here’s what Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) analyst Emmanuel Rosner said about the restructuring plan: “Besides strong expected volume/price/mix contribution from its new U.S. trucks, GM should benefit from large immediate savings from its restructuring efforts, which we believe are underestimated by investors, and that will continue to ramp up through 2020.”
Rosner has a $48 price target on General Motors stock, 20% above the shares’ current levels.
GM Stock Driver: Valuation
Even after the recent run-up of GM stock, its valuation is still fairly low. Consider that the forward price-earnings multiple is a mere 6.3. Note that Cruise represents about 26% of the current market cap of General Motors stock. What’s more, Wall Street is bullish on General Motors stock as well, as analysts’ current average price target on GM stock is about $47.
And finally, the stock’s dividend, with a yield of about 3.8, is attractive.
Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.