Why This Analyst Wouldn't Bet Against Tusa's GE Calls

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A J.P. Morgan analyst on Monday withdrew his price guidance on General Electric's stock, pegging the industrial giant's fair value at less than $5 a share.

"GE is operating through a difficult period, born from a combination of over a decade of leverage-related issues that, combined with challenged end markets and intensified competition, have left the company with significant liabilities and little free cash flow to support," analyst Stephen Tusa said in a note to investors.

Tusa said GE has undertaken major portfolio moves to reduce debt as a response, further diluting future fundamental levels of earnings and free cash flow.

While crediting management for delivering better free cash flow in 2019, Tusa said "management's lack of guidance is keeping a persistently optimistic Street from resetting, making the stock look cheaper than it is using published [consensus. We] expect a collapse in the forward second-half 2021 curve to come soon."

Some 12 of 20 other Wall Street analysts who cover GE currently recommend buying its shares, and most of them expect GE to be free-cash-flow positive in the second half, Reuters reported.

"Given what we view as a low quality of earnings," Tusa said, "we believe free cash flow remains the most relevant metric for valuation and the stock screens expensive on this basis, with investors giving the benefit of doubt for improvement in the out years."

Tusa said he continued to see structural weaknesses in GE's aviation and power businesses, combined with still relatively high financial leverage, and numerous tail liabilities at both GE and GE Capital Services as "all hurdles to a speedy turnaround."

Jeff Marks, senior portfolio analyst with Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS, weighed in on General Electric.

 You can follow Katherine Ross on Twitter at @byKatherineRoss.

Read more from Katherine Ross here.

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