In a few rare cases it actually matters less what the company does, and is more important to know how the company plans to spend their money. This is likely to be the storyline for General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) in 2013, as the company’s sale of its ownership in NBCUniversal to Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) may be the driving force behind its shares. I’m not suggesting that GE won’t do well this year on its own, but instead that the proceeds from this previously mentioned sale may play a very important role in the stock’s overall return.
Getting Back to Basics
One overarching theme at General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) over the last several quarters has been downsizing their GE Capital division. It seems that GE management is uncomfortable with the size and importance of this one division. Depending on your investment thesis for GE, this could either be a very wise decision, or a very poorly timed choice.
As many people know, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) competes in many different industries, and names some of the most important companies in these industries as its competition. One industry that is expected to see terrific growth over the next several years is the airline and aerospace industry. Two of the larger players in this area besides GE are United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) and The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA). With thousands of new airplanes being built, GE and United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) are racing to become important suppliers to Boeing.
It’s actually somewhat ironic that General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) is expected to grow earnings at a slower rate than either United Technologies or The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA). Both of GE’s peers are expected to see earnings growth of better than 13.5% over the next few years. General Electric, on the other hand, is expected to grow earnings by just under 11%. A big part of the difference is the fact that United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) made the strategic decision to acquire its way to more importance in the airline industry, while General Electric has been focusing more on the oil and gas boom.
Another company that General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) faces in its climate control division is Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE:JCI). As the economy improves, it’s expected that many companies would choose to upgrade their climate and control equipment to the benefit of both of these companies. However, as long as there is uncertainty, these companies may put off these expenditures until they are sure of their financial position. The good news for Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE:JCI)’ investors is that the company is a big player in batteries and auto systems. Even if the company doesn’t benefit from building upgrades, the increased business in the auto industry should carry Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE:JCI)’ business for the next several years.
If investors like the idea of buying a stock that is heavily tied to the industrial segment if GE has its way that is exactly what they’ll be getting. The company’s increasingly important divisions related to power and water, oil and gas, and aviation, should all benefit if the economy continues to improve. However, the other division that would benefit tremendously is actually GE Capital, which General Electric is looking to downsize.
Failing to Capitalize?
One of the greatest risks facing General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) today might actually be the missed returns as it gets out of an industry just as it’s turning around. It’s understandable that management would be uncomfortable with the size of GE Capital given the fact that primarily due to this unit the company had to cut its dividend several years ago. That being said, the best way for this unit to improve is to make lending decisions in a better economy.