GM Could Be Going Places

Jan. 5.11 | About: General Motors (GM)

By David Berman

Shares of General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) touched a new high of $38.30 on Wednesday, marking a 15.8 per cent gain from their debut in November. As you might recall, expectations were high when the car maker launched its initial public offering, with shares priced higher than earlier expectations. Now, one by one, analysts are getting on board with bullish predictions.

The latest: Royal Bank of Canada analyst Seth Weber initiated coverage of GM on Tuesday, weighing in with an “outperform” recommendation and a price target of $42. That brings the score among analysts to 12 buys and four holds, with an average price target of just over $43, according to Bloomberg.

For all those investors and, um, bloggers who can’t divorce the new GM from the old one that went bust during the financial crisis and recession, Mr. Weber counters with this argument: This company has a fresh look, with a strong balance sheet, a reduced cost structure and an improved labour situation.

As well, it should benefit from two trends. First, he believes that rising North American vehicle demand is in the early stages of a multi-year rebound, which will send GM’s earnings and cash flow up. And second, he expects that GM’s leading market position within BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will provide a future tailwind.

On Tuesday, his first point was bolstered to some extent by a report showing that U.S. auto sales rose 9 per cent in 2010 – but with sales still well below levels seen earlier in the decade, suggesting that there could be plenty more gains ahead if employment levels improve.

However, GM’s vehicle sales rose just 6 per cent last year, trailing Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE:F) 19 per cent sales increase and Chrysler Group LLC’s 17 per cent gain.

Disclosure: None