Currently, long-embattled industrial giant General Electric (NYSE:GE) is an enigma. Indeed, I’d say it’s a perfect enigma. Since this January’s opening price, GE stock has performed admirably, gaining over 44%. That’s a very solid return, especially considering the horrific losses the company has endured over the past few years.
On the other hand, General Electric stock really hasn’t moved much since early February. For instance, on the Feb. 5 session, shares closed at $10.21. At the time of writing, GE finished a mildly disappointing midweek session at $10.34. To save you the calculating time, that’s a pedestrian gain of 1.3%.
Naturally, investors seek clues as to where GE stock will go next. Bullish speculators have a compelling case that the worst is behind the company. Management has secured substantive deals that make shares attractive, especially at this price.
But the bears also have their counterpoints; namely, that General Electric stock has much to prove. After significant divestments designed to keep the organization afloat, GE has succeeded. But without some of its previous assets, it’s hard to imagine a realistic turnaround story.
Anytime you talk about GE stock, it’s never an easy discussion. Nevertheless, here are three pros and three cons to consider:
Pros: Wheeling and Dealing Should Lift GE Stock
Several analysts argue that General Electric stock is a “show me” investment. Simply, this means that GE will receive minimal, if any benefit of the doubt. Some companies can ride high on an interesting narrative. In contrast, General Electric must deliver the goods.
It’s a bit early to make strong pronouncements but they’re doing exactly that. At the world-renowned Paris Air Show, General Electric secured $50 billion of orders for its highly demanded engines. This includes two big contracts: one with Indigo Airlines for $20 billion and another with Air Asia for $23 billion.
It’s a sizable leap from GE’s deals from the 2017 edition, where the company booked $31 billion in orders.
Pros: Aviation Has No Imminent Disruption Threat
As I pointed out last month, aviation is a bright spot for GE stock. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the company inked some deals.
Better yet, I expect this trend to continue. Along with its highly respected expertise in this sector, another factor bolstering GE is the airline industry itself. It has moved from emphasizing large jumbo jets to smaller, fuel-efficient airplanes. That allows management to compete on volume.
And speaking about show me, how about the Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) deal? GE’s aircraft-lending unit will lend Amazon 15 Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737-800 freighters. Of course, AMZN intends to control more of its supply chain, which potentially jump-starts General Electric stock longer term.
I also think it’s very noteworthy that Amazon is working with GE in the first place. The e-commerce giant is a massive disruptor, and it has many options. Yet it went with the embattled organization, which is something to consider.
Pros: General Electric Stock Needs “Power”
One of the main criticisms against GE stock is that the underlying company is still holding onto its irrelevant legacy businesses. Arguably, the Power division represents a serious risk on paper. That’s because the world is supposedly moving to clean-energy sources at a brisk pace.
But let me drop a truth-bomb: the global economy is the entity that’s decisively rising at a brisk pace. And growing economies require energy, lots of it. Sure, clean-energy plants can meet some of the demand. But the appetite would likely be so voracious that the world cannot depend on any one platform.
That brings us back to the Power division. It might not look like it now, but once we get over some of the political overhangs regarding “non-clean” energy sources, General Electric stock could take off.
Cons: Aviation Isn’t Without Headwinds
Overall, I believe aviation will turn out to be a net positive for GE stock. However, I must point out some turbulence that directly impacts GE’s recent bullish news.
According to the International Air Transport Association, cargo-tonnage growth slowed to a worrying pace near the end of 2018. This data came out before the current round of retaliatory tariffs between the U.S. and China.
If the trade war continues, retailers including vaunted Amazon will surely feel the pain. Ultimately, that detracts from the bull case for General Electric stock. Moreover, tensions between the top-two world economies could hurt consumer sentiment. That bearishness may trickle down to the airliner industry, which also hurts the company.
Cons: GE Is Swimming in Debt
The above is a fairly granular argument. But with General Electric, bears don’t need to scrounge for details. Instead, they can just pick out some broad financial metrics.
One of those is debt. General Electric is swimming in it. From the most recent read, the organization is holding nearly $92 billion in this liability.
Of course, debt isn’t the end-all, be-all for assessing a stock. However, GE must stage an almost-unprecedented turnaround to make itself attractive again. Anything less and the once-iconic industrial giant will fall decisively into penny stock territory.
Unfortunately, for management to generate positive traction will require investments. Again, with that “show me” environment, the markets don’t have any patience.
Cons: Management Must Overcome an Indefinite Credibility Crisis
Suppose General Electric produces an outstanding earnings result for its second-quarter report: how will that move GE stock?
On the surface, you’d expect shares to fly for a few sessions. For one thing, General Electric stock benefits from the law of small numbers. A second factor is that a positive earnings result plays into human psychology: investors will get excited about playing a turnaround story early in the game.
But then reality will hit. Not too long ago, GE stock traded for around $30. Eventually, the markets may fade the company because after all, it’s just one quarter.
How many quarters must GE string together before it earns back its credibility? It might be a long list, which is why most investors are apprehensive.
Conclusion: A Risky But Compelling Opportunity
Unsurprisingly, GE stock has been rangebound the last few months. The company offers a compelling case for a revival. At the same time, it’s impossible to forget GE’s catastrophic losses.
But because General Electric stock is rangebound, I believe the bad news is baked in. It’s still crazy risky, but I definitely see a case for a speculative gamble. Just don’t go in with money you can’t afford to lose.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.