General Electric (NYSE:GE) investors are sitting on a loss of 52% if they invested five years ago

Simply Wall St
January 19, 2022
Source: Shutterstock

General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 13% in the last month. But that doesn't change the fact that the returns over the last half decade have been disappointing. The share price has failed to impress anyone , down a sizable 57% during that time. So is the recent increase sufficient to restore confidence in the stock? Not yet. Of course, this could be the start of a turnaround.

It's worthwhile assessing if the company's economics have been moving in lockstep with these underwhelming shareholder returns, or if there is some disparity between the two. So let's do just that.

See our latest analysis for General Electric

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

General Electric became profitable within the last five years. That would generally be considered a positive, so we are surprised to see the share price is down. Other metrics might give us a better handle on how its value is changing over time.

The modest 0.3% dividend yield is unlikely to be guiding the market view of the stock. Arguably, the revenue drop of 9.8% a year for half a decade suggests that the company can't grow in the long term. This has probably encouraged some shareholders to sell down the stock.

The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

NYSE:GE Earnings and Revenue Growth January 19th 2022

It's good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That's a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. If you are thinking of buying or selling General Electric stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of General Electric, it has a TSR of -52% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

General Electric provided a TSR of 13% over the year (including dividends). That's fairly close to the broader market return. The silver lining is that the share price is up in the short term, which flies in the face of the annualised loss of 9% over the last five years. While 'turnarounds seldom turn' there are green shoots for General Electric. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with General Electric (at least 1 which shouldn't be ignored) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

General Electric is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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