Rule #1 Finance Blog

With Investor Phil Town

GE CEO Buys Stock… So Buy GE, Right?

The other day, Mike left a comment here on the blog about GE. Here’s a quote from his comment (taken from Bloomberg):

Last year was “a tough year, and we expect 2009 to be even tougher,” Immelt wrote.

The CEO, while accepting responsibility, made it clear he intends to see GE through the crisis. Today, as GE shares dropped to the lowest price since May 1993, he bought 50,000 shares in a show of confidence.

“The current crisis offers the challenge of our lifetime,” Immelt said. “I’ve told our leaders at GE that if they are frightened by this concept, they shouldn’t be here. But if they’re energized, and desire to play a part in transforming the company for the future, then this is going to be a thrilling time to be a part of GE.” [By Rachel Layne, Bloomberg]

Hey, you gotta like it when a multi-millionaire puts up his own money to buy 50,000 shares.  Now if he mortgaged his house and bought 5,000,000 shares I’d get excited.  And check out the financials on GE, right?  Notice the debt has doubled twice in the last ten years while earnings and sales and book value have doubled once or less.  And it would take about 35 years to pay it off out of cash flow.  Red flag there.  Not to mention a 3% ROIC.

And what were they doing with the debt?  Over 60% of it went to pay dividends or buy stock.  WHAT???

They were borrowing money to prop up their stock price?  You gotta be kidding!  And worse, like GM, they were borrowing to pay dividends.  That is almost criminal.

No CEO should pay dividends because investors expect one.  They should pay a dividend because they have cash they can’t invest with a high enough return.  Period.  Anything else is semi-fraudulent and certainly misleading.

In other words, GE was either being run into the ground by incompetence or by traitors who were acquiring businesses that didn’t pay off.  So traitors or incompetents.  Either way, unless they change management, how is this going to improve?

It’s cheap, but it also has almost no equity at all right now.  Debt is 5 times the equity.

Phil Town says, “Now go play”.

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Phil Town is an investment advisor, hedge fund manager, 3x NY Times Best-Selling Author, ex-Grand Canyon river guide, and former Lieutenant in the US Army Special Forces. He and his wife, Melissa, share a passion for horses, polo, and eventing. Phil’s goal is to help you learn how to invest and achieve financial independence.