General Electric (NYSE:GE) investors are sitting on a loss of 33% if they invested five years ago

While not a mind-blowing move, it is good to see that the General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) share price has gained 20% in the last three months. But that doesn't change the fact that the returns over the last five years have been less than pleasing. After all, the share price is down 39% in that time, significantly under-performing the market.

Since shareholders are down over the longer term, lets look at the underlying fundamentals over the that time and see if they've been consistent with returns.

Check out our latest analysis for General Electric

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

During five years of share price growth, General Electric moved from a loss to profitability. However, it made a loss in the last twelve months, suggesting profit may be an unreliable metric at this stage. Other metrics may better explain the share price move.

The modest 0.4% dividend yield is unlikely to be guiding the market view of the stock. It could be that the revenue decline of 10.0% per year is viewed as evidence that General Electric is shrinking. This has probably encouraged some shareholders to sell down the stock.

You can see below how earnings and revenue have changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. You can see what analysts are predicting for General Electric in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, General Electric's TSR for the last 5 years was -33%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While it's certainly disappointing to see that General Electric shares lost 6.0% throughout the year, that wasn't as bad as the market loss of 14%. What is more upsetting is the 6% per annum loss investors have suffered over the last half decade. While the losses are slowing we doubt many shareholders are happy with the stock. It is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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