General Electric vs. the World

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It's been 10 years since Jeffrey Immelt took over control of General Electric (NYS: GE) from the legendary Jack Welch. It's a notable anniversary and multiple news outlets ran reports last week of the "how's he doing?" variety in commemoration of Immelt's decade in office. Here at the Fool, however, we think there's a more important question:

How will GE perform in the future?

You ask, GE answers
If you ask Immelt, he'll tell you that over the next couple of years at least, GE plans to do just fine. Asked about the company's prospects last week, the CEO argued GE will post profit growth that "beats the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ... we feel like we can deliver for investors." That sounds pretty good, but what does it really mean?

According to Morningstar, the average stock on the S&P 500 is likely to grow earnings 10% over the next few years. The average stock on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI), meanwhile, is pegged for only 9.1% growth. Meanwhile, most analysts agree with Immelt that GE (which is a component of both the Dow and the S&P 500) will run right past both averages, outgrowing rival industrialists Boeing (NYS: BA) and United Technologies (NYS: UTX) , and posting 14.5% compound annual growth over the next five years.

If you think that's good news, just wait. It gets better. The average stock on the S&P pays a 2.3% dividend yield. On the Dow, the going rate is 2.7%. Yet GE shines relative to its peers here as well, boasting a 3.8% dividend yield on its stock. (And, as I explained back in May, GE could well be on track to grow that dividend to as much as a 4.6% yield by 2012.)

The kicker
Seems to me, the prospect for strong and growing dividends alone makes GE an attractive investment. But here's the best part: GE's also cheap. Its 11.9 P/E ratio is cheaper than the prices on offer at Boeing and UTC. Cheaper than Textron (NYS: TXT) , too. And it pays more generous dividends. Indeed, GE's P/E ratio is only on par with the average P/E on the Dow, while it's cheaper than the average company on the S&P. Put it all together, and I can only repeat: This stock looks downright gorgeous.

Will GE deliver on its promises? Add it to your Fool Watchlist and find out.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorRich Smithdoes not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.The Motley Fool owns shares of Textron. Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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