Following the recent announcement by General Electric Co. (NYSE:GEC) that it would cut dividends by 50% and restructure to focus on aviation, health care and power, analysts and investors began to weigh in with proposed strategies to deal with the shake-up of this historical conglomerate.
GE plans to shed it 100-year-old transportation and lighting businesses along with Baker Hughes, the company’s oil-field-services provider.
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A Dividend By Half
For investors the immediate shock comes with a decision to cut the quarterly dividend from 24 cents to 12 cents per share. This will allow the company to reduce dividend payments from $8.4 billion to $4.2 billion making the dividend yield about 2.3%.
Although GE is one of the biggest dividend payers in the U.S., it has struggled to keep up with its $8 billion per year in dividend payouts. The reduction, if not the amount of the cut, is not exactly unexpected.
Breaking Up Could Be Hard
Normally when conglomerates break up, the sell-off are profitable. Whether this happens with GE depends on several factors. It used to be that conglomerates were desirable to encourage and promote diversification. More recently, better data and spreadsheets have helped analysts conclude specialization is more powerful.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon only works when the economy is going strong. If, as many suspect, the U.S. economy is on the cusp of a “correction,” the recent high valuation of spinoffs could come to a screeching halt. At that point, diversification may become the new poster child for Wall Street success.
What To Do
Conventional wisdom says as GE goes into breakup mode, investors with GE stock may want to hang on for potential profit-taking. Buyers may want to consider loading up. With shares hitting new lows, selling may not be a great idea.
A recent note from Cowen with a sum-of-the-parts analysis of GE suggested the company’s breakup valuation was in the range of $11 to $15 per share. This implies a 27% to 46% downside based on the stock’s current value. Cowen’s analysis indicates that investors expecting to profit are failing to consider the liabilities attached to the individual units that would be sold.
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On The Other Hand
Although shares of GE have fallen 35% this year, losing more than $416 billion in market value, some investors point to the company’s dividend as reason to own the stock. GE’s dividend yield was 4.69% compared to the S&P 500 dividend yield of 1.94%. Of course, now it’s half that.
Holding the stock is certainly hard to justify given the decline in value. The options market has implied a 5% move up or down for the stock following investor day (Monday).