Citigroup, BofA to Sextuple by 2015?

The selloff in bank stocks is only creating a bigger opportunity, according to one well-known analyst.
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) -- Feeling gloomy about


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Bank of America

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and other bank stocks? You need some Dick Bove in your life.

Dick Bove

, as watchers of bank stocks know, is the veteran bank analyst with Rochdale Securities whose energy belies his 69-odd years. He is never afraid to go out on a limb, and while many analysts are pounding the table on back stocks right now, it's hard to find a bigger optimist these days than Bove.

That's not to say that Bove is a perma-bull. A 2005 report he wrote called "This Powder Keg Is Ready To Blow," gives him a legitimate claim to stand alongside that select group of stock pickers credited with having foreseen the banking crisis of 2008.

But Bove has been bullish for some time, and the latest selloff in bank stocks does not appear to have dimmed his view of the sector in the slightest. On the contrary, the selloff is only driving the bank analyst to cry more loudly about the bargains he believes are available in the sector.

Bove stated in a report published Tuesday that Citigroup will be worth $24.75 per share in 2015, more than 6.5 times Monday's closing price of $3.78 and twice the book value he is projecting for the bank in that year. Assuming Citigroup can attain the $12.37 book value Bove is projecting, that $24.75 price would not be far-fetched by historical standards. Citigroup has traded at a price-to-book ratio as low as 0.19 and as high as 4.59, according to Bove's research. The bank currently trades at 0.72 times book.

Assuming the same price-to-book ratio for Bank of America in 2015, Bove believes the bank's shares will be worth $99.37 in 2015, well over six times Monday's closing price of $15.40. Bank of America currently trades at 0.73 times book value.

While Citigroup and Bank of America are the biggest bargains among the largest banks, Bove sees only slightly smaller potential gains for

JPMorgan Chase

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. Even

Wells Fargo

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shares, which Bove sees as expensive relative to the other three U.S. giants, will be worth $92.66 in 2015, according to Bove's formulation, more than three times its close of $28.71 on Monday.

Bove sees even bigger bargains among large regional banks, led by

PNC Financial

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Capital One Financial

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M&T Bank Corp.

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, Bove's most highly-touted stock pick in the report he published Tuesday. Bove argues M&T will trade at $188.24 in 2015, or nearly eight times Monday's closing price of $23.98.

His report did not explain this call in detail, however, and did not return a call placed to him Tuesday.

Bove's basic premise on bank stocks is that an improving economy will cause earnings to rise as loan losses decrease on a fairly stable revenue base. Citing FDIC data for the banking industry, Bove argues quarterly operating revenues have remained fairly stable over the past four years.

Bove's report, based on a study of the 25 largest domestic banks, has plenty of caveats. For example, Bove acknowledges after studying measures like price-to-earnings, price-to-book and price-to-revenue that the performance of these data is "trendless." And there are plenty of smart thinkers out there who think the economy could drift along for some time, or even get worse. Still, few people paid much attention in 2005, when Bove said bank stocks were overpriced. Citigroup investors, in particular, sure wish they had.


Written by Dan Freed in New York