NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As we get closer to the Federal Reserve's rule-making on banks' capital requirements and another round of stress tests early next year for the industry's largest players, capital strength remains among the biggest concerns of bank investors.
Since we looked at the 10 large banks with the strongest second-quarter capital levels in September, our list of large, strongly capitalized holding companies has changed a bit, with two growing their assets more than the $25 billion threshold during the third quarter, and two companies leaving the list.
First Niagara Financial (FNFG) of Buffalo, N.Y., was on the second-quarter list, but its Tier 1 common equity ratio declined to 11.27% as of Sept. 30 from 11.41% the previous quarter, according to SNL. While First Niagara's Tier 1 common ratio was still very strong, the company is no longer in the top 10. Heading into the expected first-quarter completion of the company's deal to purchase 195 branches in upstate New York and Connecticut from HSBC (HBC), First Niagara plans to raise between $750 million and $800 million in common equity through a public offering.
New York Community Bancorp (NYB) is not on the list this quarter because a Sept. 30 Tier 1 common equity ratio wasn't yet available when we pulled the data on Monday.For the largest U.S. banks, capital levels will be of paramount importance over the next several years, as the enhanced Basel III capital levels are implemented. The largest banks that are also considered "systemically important financial institutions" will need to achieve Tier 1 common equity ratios of at least 9.5% by January 2019, and under Basel III, the Tier 1 common equity ratio is lower than the Basel I calculation currently in use. The Fed is expected to follow the Basel Committee's lead in setting its final capital requirements before the end of the year, following up with a third round of stress tests in the spring. This time around, the stress tests will be called the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, or CCAR, and will cover 35 U.S. bank holding companies with total assets of $50 billion or more. Large banks are likely to be required to complete the CCAR process before gaining regulatory approval to accelerate a return of capital to shareholders through dividend increases or expanded share repurchase programs. MetLife (MET) -- which will continue to be regulated by the Fed as a bank holding company until the insurer completes the sale or wind-down of its MetLife Bank unit -- saw its capital plan rejected by bank regulators in October. For the following 10 bank holding companies, investors can take some comfort in strong capital levels, although some of the companies are still working through high levels of problem loans, and some are seeing increased legal risk. Here are TheStreet's 10 Large Banks with Solid Capital, in order of ascending Basel I Tier 1 common equity ratio, using data provided by SNL Financial.