One of the more interesting debates taking place at Seeking Alpha right now is that over General Electric (NYSE:GE). Regarded Solutions says the stock can double over the next 12-18 months. David Alton Clark says that's silly.
It is silly. Double GE's market valuation and you have something north of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). But you also have a dividend yielding over 3% at the stock's current price, and a company that has finally achieved a decade-long turnaround.
Jeff Immelt is one of the most controversial big company CEOs out there. He took the financial giant that he inherited from Jack Welch and turned it back into the heavy industry company it had been a century earlier. He also got along with President Obama while Jack Welch was pounding the table for Mitt Romney, and that may have been the larger sin.
But Immelt is, in fact, a Republican, and he has moved with deliberate speed, his rhetoric usually years ahead of his actions. Even now the company's profits are split evenly between finance and energy, with aviation and healthcare taking up most of the rest of the other third.
GE's success in making money in renewable energy shows a conservative bent. It delayed a heavily-hyped solar panel project in Colorado when the numbers for it didn't look right. Its strategy is to combine intermittent wind-and-solar systems with natural gas power that can be turned on-and-off quickly, providing a steady stream of power to utility grids.
Since 2009 Immelt has actually been emphasizing profitability. Revenues have been declining for the last few years, while margins have been slowly going up. This means that while the debt load has been going down slightly on the balance sheet, the debt-to-assets ratio has stayed level. Operating cash flow has also been fairly steadily, give or take a few billion on $35 billion.
So you have a conservatively-run company, continuing to move in an industrial direction, in an economy that is slowly moving in the same direction. It's not going to double unless the general economy takes off, but it's not going to be a loser for you going forward either. It's a nice, steady stock that can be part of a nice, conservative portfolio.
Like many investors, I bought Immelt's hype ahead of his delivery. I currently have 200 shares of GE, shares that are on balance under water. But the dividend, reinvested, has kept the stake growing, and I expect that by this time next year I'll be at break-even, growing at a reasonable rate. I won't be adding to my stake, but I won't be taking chips off the table this year, either. It's a widows-and-orphans stock, a fine addition to any defensive portfolio. It won't hurt you but it won't make you rich, either.
I probably won't think about it, or write about it, at all. But for this...