General Motors Company (NYSE: GM ) is a stock at a crossroads. Although the company has moved on from its 2009 bankruptcy, the automaker continues to struggle. Sales volumes remain notoriously cyclical, and some brands fell in sales by large margins. However, with low valuations and a strong dividend, purchasing GM stock looks to be a safe place to earn dividends and maybe enjoy equity gains along the way.
GM Stock's Unexpected Advantage
The stock has generally experienced little growth since its reintroduction after the bankruptcy. However, the GM stock price is up $11, or over 30% since May. The sudden increase is likely due to a suddenly-realized competitive advantage in an up-and-coming automotive segment - self-driving cars. According to Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache, GM will be ready to ready to sell these vehicles within "a few quarters." Most of GM's competitors, including Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA ), weren't expecting to release self-driving cars for a few more years.
GM stock followed through on this optimism in the latest earnings report. While the reported $1.32 per share represented a drop from the $1.71 per share number from this time last year, the stock beat analyst expectations of $1.13 per share.
GM's Sales, Demand Remain Concerns
Admittedly, revenue also fell from last year's level. However, Chevrolet and GMC continue to perform with increasing sales on most of its lines of trucks and SUVs. Even Cadillac registered a modest domestic sales increase for September. Although Buick still faces sales drops, General Motors remains consistently profitable, despite erratic sales figures.
The ongoing worry for automakers involves the future of the industry. With the rise of Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft, analysts worry consumers will buy fewer cars. Rental markets would also be negatively affected if more travelers chose rideshare services over car rentals from companies such as Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR ) or Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: HTZ ).
Fortunately for owners of GM stock, international sales can make up for the shortfall and possibly increase overall sales. For September, GM delivered a 6.6% year-on-year sales increase in sales in China. With this, China sales had their best September in history. China is now a larger market than the U.S. for GM.
And China is not the only focus. Though it's a small market, General Motors also saw its largest percentage increase for sales in South America in the first six months of 2017. This increase amounted to a 17.9% increase in the first half of 2017. Still, the company attributed the drop in overall quarterly revenue to GM Europe, so not all non-U.S. markets have performed well.
GM Stock Valuations, Dividends Still Favorable
While the industry itself has an average price-to-earnings ratio (PE) of about 14, GM trades at 9.5 times earnings, lower than domestic peers such as Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F ), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU ), and Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM ). Fiat Chrysler faces losses with Ford and Toyota have PE ratios at around 11.
Investors are also well-paid for holding this stock. GM reintroduced its dividend in 2014 and steadily increased it. Today it stands at $1.52 per share. This amounts to 38 cents per share every quarter and a yield of around 3.4%. And with $6 per share in 2016 earnings, the dividend payout ratio was just slightly above 25%. This dividend yield is over 1.5 times the average dividend yield for the S&P 500.
GM is also well-positioned to grow its stock's value due to low valuations and high dividends. The stock has proven this recently with its gains over the summer. Domestic sales have followed an up-and-down pattern. However, China has continued to produce strong sales results. Automobiles in less-noticed markets such as South America saw strong sales increases.
Finally, with a low PE ratio and a high dividend, GM stock emerges as an investment that's likely to grow, despite the stock trading at a multi-year high. Sales have often been mixed, and near-term increases of 30% or more in the stock's value will likely not happen often. Still, GM's newly-announced lead in self-driving technology could develop into a lucrative segment for the company. Investors wanting slow, steady profits and strong cash returns should look at GM stock.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.
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