Shares of General Motors (GM) - Get Report have been on fire this year. GM stock is up more than 23% since Sept. 1, and while it certainly seems overbought, GM's low earnings multiple could give it room to run, given how profitable it is.
General Motors trades at a fraction of the valuation that Tesla Inc. (TSLA) - Get Report does, although GM generated more than $9.4 billion in profit last year. Tesla has no profit, GM has loads of it. Tesla burns through cash, GM returns it to shareholders and still yields 3.4% despite the near-30% rally so far this year.
While one could argue that Tesla deserves the higher valuation given its immense sales growth, does it really deserve to have a larger market cap? That was the case until GM stock went on a rising rampage over the last six weeks. The Detroit-based automaker now sports a $65 billion market cap, topping that of Tesla, which sports a market cap of roughly $60 billion.
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General Motors stock run isn't just pent-up bullishness. The automaker is making a big push into electric vehicles and self-driving car technology. That's one reason Barclays analyst Brian Johnson upgraded the stock to overweight from equal-weight and boosted his price target to $55.
Shares trade at roughly 7 times 2017 earnings estimates, vs. the average of about 15 to 20 times earnings the rest of the industrial sector trades at, he noted. He made the case that perhaps GM stock is in line for a higher valuation, given its progress in "electrification and autonomy," particularly as Tesla faces trouble ramping production of the Model 3.
Johnson went as far as to call GM an "evolving mammal" rather than the "dying dinosaur" many have come to think of it as. A run to $55 would imply more than 22% upside from current levels. Should the share count remain the same, that would drive General Motors to an $80 billion market cap. With a solid dividend to boot, investors could be in store for plenty of gains should Johnson's call prove correct.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.