After taking investors on a miserable ride for several years, General Electric (NYSE:GE) shares are showing promise. Over the course of just three and a half years, the struggling multinational saw its stock lose over 80% of its value. Once the world’s most valuable company, GE stock collapsed in an epic fashion. However, the turnaround led by CEO Lawrence Culp is gaining momentum.
General Electric stock is now up 90% over the past 12 months. That being said, shares have plateaued since the spring.
What will it take for this Portfolio Grader A-rated stock to really kick into recovery mode? I said it in September and the view has just been re-iterated by a Wells Fargo analyst: look to the skies.
GE’s Aviation division continues to feel the effect of the crippled airline industry. Once flights return to pre-pandemic levels and airlines start buying from GE again, expect GE stock to get a big boost.
GE Stock: Wells Fargo Takes a Bearish View of GE Aviation
At this point, investment analysts have a much more favorable outlook on GE stock than they did last year. Those polled by the Wall Street Journal have GE rated as consensus “Overweight” with an average $121.75 price target. That’s 17% upside.
Wells Fargo’s Joseph O’Dea isn’t in that group. Barron’s reports that Wells Fargo initiated coverage of GE last week, but with a “Hold” rating. The $107 price target is a very modest bump over current levels.
One of the key factors in Well Fargo’s rating is GE’s Aviation business. O’Dea doesn’t see it recovering from the pandemic hit any time soon. His analysis projects 2021 Aviation division revenue of $21.6 billion. That’s down 34% from 2019 levels of $32.8 billion.
Even looking several years down the road, O’Dea doesn’t see a full recovery. He’s projecting GE’s Aviation sales for that year to come in at around $30.6 billion. A big leap over 2021 levels, but still not back to 2019 numbers.
Delta’s Impact on Air Travel
Air travel was absolutely crushed by the pandemic in 2020. That year, with both passenger and business travel gutted, it was estimated that 1 billion fewer passengers flew compared to 2019. Planes were parked, unused. Needless to say, the drop in traffic meant a corresponding drop in the need for components like GE aircraft engines.
This spring, the flying situation was looking much better. In March, U.S. airports reported their busiest day in a year.
However, the Covid-19 Delta variant has been playing spoiler in recent months. A study forecasting different recovery scenarios (based on the impact of the Delta variant) suggests that baseline global airline revenue will hit $243 billion in 2021. That’s down $12 billion from previous estimates. And it amounts to just 36% of 2019 global airline revenue.
In other words, we may be waiting a bit yet for GE’s Aviation division to act as a growth catalyst.
Bottom Line on GE Stock
Let’s get to the crux of this post. With GE shares currently trading for just over $104 — pretty much unchanged since February — is now the time to invest?
The wildcard here (at least in the short term) is Oct. 26. That’s when GE is expected to report quarterly earnings. What the company says is obviously going to have a short-term impact on the price of GE stock. If that Aviation division is showing signs of recovery (far from a given with the impact Covid-19’s Delta variant has had on air travel), that could kick off the next growth phase.
The bottom line? If you’ve been considering a GE investment, you might want to think about doing it before Oct. 26. There’s not much risk of shares losing value, and even if they did it’s unlikely they would stay down for long. The more likely case is a continuation around the current price level. And if there is positive news, you’ll have bought in before the market reaction caused the value to rise.
Either way, GE stock is a solid bet for a long-term growth investment. Just keep in mind that with the Covid-19 Delta variant’s impact on air travel, the long-term horizon may be stretched out further than expected.
On the date of publication, neither Louis Navellier nor the InvestorPlace Research Staff member primarily responsible for this article held (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
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