2012 Preview: General Electric

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The calendar has turned, and the new year has begun. Now... what are you going to do with it? In our 2012 preview series, we're taking a look at some of our favorite stocks, and wondering: Will they do as well this year as last year? Or in General Electric's (NYS: GE) case... could they do any worse?

A few Foolish facts about General Electric

Year-to-Date Stock Return(2.1)
P/E15.1
Dividend Yield3.8%
1-Year Revenue Growth(4.2%)
1-Year Profit Growth8.3%
CAPS Rating (out of 5)****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

What's ahead for GE?
GE had a rough go of things in 2011, underperforming the S&P 500 by 2 percentage points, and lagging the Dow Jones Industrial Average by more than 7 points. But as the year wound down, things began to heat up for GE. December saw its shares surge nearly 13% in just 30 days' time.

Why? In part, I suspect we can chalk up some of GE's late-year surge to the company having just joined the "Dogs of the Dow" list. GE currently offers the fourth-biggest dividend on the Dow after AT&T, Verizon, and Merck, you see. It could be that some investors are playing the odds that between the generous yield and a hoped-for P/E expansion, GE stock will reward this year. But there are even more reasons to believe GE will bring good things to life in 2012.

For all of 2011, and much of 2010, GE has been working hard to retool its business model -- rehiring manufacturing workers at its appliances business, selling off its riskier finance units, and making big inroads into the business of Big Oil -- and the potentially even bigger business of electric car-charging.

Management says it expects the new GE will grow industrial sales by as much as 10% in 2012, with a corresponding 10% increase in net profit from its manufacturing businesses. Wall Street projects nearly 15% per-share profits growth for the company this year as GE continues to buy back stock, and longer-term growth a nearly as-strong 13%. With the company at a share price of 15 times earnings, and paying investors a 3.8% annual dividend on top of any share price gains it delivers, I think 2012 just might be the year GE turns the corner.

(What's more, I've put my reputation where my mouth is, publicly declaring that I expect GE to outperform the S&P 500. You can check out this prediction, and the 55 other public recommendations I have made, on my Motley Fool CAPS page.)

Our analysts at the Motley Fool newsletters think they've found a stock that can do even better. Find out which company our experts like best in our new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." Thousands have already requested access, and it'll only be available for a limited time. Simply click here -- it's free.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorRich Smithholds no position in any company mentioned above.Click hereto see his holdings and a short bio.Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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