In defence Of General Electric


Investors have deserted GE’s stock over the last week like draft dodgers fleeing to Canada. The firm’s shares fell more than 20% over the five trading days, and now sit near a multi-year low of just below $9, 25% of its 52-week high. Even though GE’s financial services operation is only one of many parts of the company, its shares have done much worse over the last year than JPMorgan (JPM) or Goldman Sachs (GS). It is as if GE’s large and healthy infrastructure business did not even exist.

The abridged description of the case against GE is simple. The assets of its financial unit, GECS, will suffer from high default rates as the recession undermines the ability of its business and consumer customers to pay their bills. A Deutsche Bank analyst recently wrote that GE Capital has zero value in contributing to the value of the company’s stock. His argument is that the unrealized losses on the financial unit’s balance sheet are greater than most investors understand. On top of the analyst’s report, The Wall Street Journal reported that GE has significant exposure to the failing commercial real estate market.

The company’s attempt to improve the fortunes of its financial unit will not be without cost. As Morningstar says, “GE’s decisions to wind down its non-U.S. portfolio and shift to higher-quality asset classes is welcome even though these decisions will likely pressure earnings going forward.” GE makes the risks of its exposure to the real estate, tight credit markets, other financial firms clear in all of its public filings and readily admits that it may not be able to keep its “Triple-A” credit rating which would drive up its borrowing costs. Read the whole thing at 24/7 Wall St. >