General Electric’s stock doesn’t look like it’s bottoming yet

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All CNBC’s Jim Cramer heard after news broke that Walgreens would replace General Electric in the Dow Jones industrial average was that “this has to be the bottom” for shares of GE.

But after hearing people call “bottom” in the ailing industrial’s stock over and over again, the “Mad Money” host wasn’t so sure.

Since GE Chairman and CEO John Flannery replaced former CEO Jeff Immelt in August 2017, market-watchers have thought the stock was bottoming nearly every step of the way, Cramer said.

They said it when the company cut its forecast that October; when GE halved its dividend in November; and again when it incurred a steep charge in its long-term care division in January.

“So now we’re supposed to believe that being kicked out of the Dow Jones average after 111 years of being a member in good standing is somehow the bottom? On the basis of what, irony?” Cramer asked Wednesday.

He pointed to the company’s many persisting pain points. GE is spending billions — $6.2 billion at the start of 2018 and an additional $15 billion over the next seven years — on stabilizing its insurance portfolio.

“These charges, which could not really be foretold by anything public, make you feel like it doesn’t even matter what the real earnings are here, not that you can tell what they are anyway,” Cramer said.

GE’s disclosure of the charges made the practice of figuring out how the company’s many segments — aerospace, health care, construction and oil and gas, to name a few — are performing fruitless, the “Mad Money” host argued.

“It’s like asking about the layout of the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said. “Who cares when you just crashed into a huge iceberg?”

GE is also under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is looking into its accounting practices, and the Justice Department, which has alleged that WMC, a subprime mortgage business GE sold in 2007, violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.

GE is also facing charges related to its 2015 acquisition of manufacturer Alstom’s energy business. The two companies signed an agreement in May to exit three joint ventures in the energy space in return for GE paying Alstom just over $3 billion.

And with health care costs, in-home care costs and average life expectancy on the rise, Cramer was concerned that GE could be taking on too much water to be able to stay afloat.

“That’s why it’s so difficult to believe we’re at the bottom,” he said. “In the end, what really matters are those charges themselves. They just might force GE to cut its dividend yet again. The risk here is all from long-term care [and] some from power.”

That was what Cramer found most ironic about Walgreens taking GE’s spot in the Dow: in his eyes, it’s really just one health care company replacing another.

“That’s the only irony I see here,” he said. “When GE finally puts this issue to bed and takes a big charge for its Alstom acquisition, … then I think we talk ‘bottom.’ Until then, irony is not a good reason to buy any stock, least of all this one.”



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