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Don't Ignore These Credit Card Stock Bargains

Discover's second-quarter ROTCE over the same 12-month period was an outstanding 26.4%.

The stock closed at $50.26 Thursday and traded for 10.0 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $5.00. That's a lower forward P/E than Bank of America (BAC), for example, which achieved a marginal ROTCE of 4.67% for the 12-month period ended June 30. Bank of America's shares closed at $14.00 Thursday and traded for 10.3 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $1.36.

Sakhrani estimates Discover on Oct. 21 will report third-quarter EPS of $1.17, declining from $1.20 the previous quarter and $1.23 a year earlier. The analyst rates Discover "outperform" with a $61 price target, and sees plenty of room for the company to increase its share buyback.

"We believe significant earnings generation and excess capital position of the company leave room for capital management activities greater than our current expectations. For 3Q13, we estimate DFS will repurchase about $350 million of shares (vs. $340 million in 2Q13) and will repurchase roughly $1.3 billion of shares in 2013," he wrote.

American Express (AXP) has also been showing growth, with average managed credit card receivables in August of $54.8 billion increasing at an annual pace of 4%. The company reported a second-quarter return on average equity of 23.6% for the first half of 2013, down from 26.6% a year earlier.

The shares closed at $74.02 Thursday and traded for 13.8 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $5.35. This makes the shares rather pricey compared to Capital One and Discover, however, American Express has a long track record of bringing home double-digit returns on equity.

Sakhrani rates American Express a "buy" and estimates the company will report third-quarter earnings of $1.23 a share, compared to EPS of $1.27 the previous quarter and $1.09 a year earlier. His price target for the shares is $87.00.

The credit card lenders are worthy of consideration at this point in the banking industry's recovery because of their high degree of profitability and relatively low valuations. Some investors may be concerned about regulatory overhang, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday said it had several "areas of concern" for the credit card industry, including sales of add-on products, fees, and deferred interest on some private label cards.

However, the CFPB's concerns seem pretty tame when compared the onslaught the largest banks continue to face.

"Generally speaking, fundamental trends remain solid and we expect C3Q13 earnings season to be fairly constructive," for the credit card lenders and processors covered by his firm, Sakhrani wrote.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>Contact by Email.

Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.
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