Updated to include Goldman Sachs upgrade and overall Wall Street analyst recommendations.
SAN FRANCISCO (
shares burst out of the gate on Friday, reversing recent performance, as Wall Street analysts suggested investors buy ahead of the company's filing of an annual report.
Wells shares were recently up 3.8% at $32.63 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Earlier in the day, Goldman Sachs analyst Richard Ramsden added the stock to its firm's "conviction buy" list from a previous rating of neutral, ousting
from the coveted list. Ramsden said the firm could "surprise to the upside" with a higher-than-expected or sooner-than-expected dividend hike, and downplayed the seriousness of the recent departure of Wells Fargo's former CFO.
"The recent sell-off given speculation around the CFO departure presents an attractive entry point," said Ramsden. "Moreover, 10-K signoff next week should ease investor fears over financial reporting issues."
The analyst also lifted his 2011 earnings per share estimate by 2% to $2.90 and his 2012 EPS estimate 6% to $3.80, while boosting his price target to $38 from $36.
In a separate report on Friday, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Mutascio also said the recent sell-off in Wells Fargo, related to the abrupt departure of the bank's former CFO, is overdone. Mutascio believes the resignation of the executive, Howard Atkins, was
announced after the close on Feb. 8. Since that time,
Wells' share price has plunged 7.8%.
>>>Read More: Wells Fargo Investors Want Answers
"Given the number of times management has denied that the CFO's departure has anything to do with the company's financial condition or its financial reporting," said Mutascio, "we would be buyers into the release of the company's 10-K as we do not believe there will be any restatements or surprise disclosures tied to the CFO's departure contained within the regulatory filing."
The analyst made an especially bullish call on the stock, saying it not only offer long-term value but was a great short-term play as well. Mustacio also said that Wells, at current price levels, is a better deal than other large-cap peers that were trading lower in recent days.
The sell-off in Wells' stock was exacerbated by
another analyst's assertion earlier this month that Atkins left because he found the company's accounting too "aggressive" and because its disclosures were wanting.
has also reported that Atkins left over clashes with his boss, John Stumpf, although the reasons weren't clear. Wells has said repeatedly that his departure was due to "personal" reasons, but won't disclose further information.
Atkins isn't signing off on Wells Fargo's 10-K. His replacement Tim Sloan will do so instead. As
reported last week , Wells' auditor, KPMG, indicated that it is standing by the company. Additionally, the longtime banker will maintain his board seats at
Wells Fargo is expected to file its 10-K report with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
by the end of the month.
"Clearly, we would rather have the company provide the specific reason for the CFO's departure as it would eliminate the rumor mill and conjecture," said Mustacio. "However, we take management at its word that the departure is unrelated to the company's financial condition or financial reporting."
He added that the stock "could have a fair amount of catch-up (relief rally)" to perform more in line with other "high-quality names" like
once the 10-K is filed and uncertainty is subdued. Mustacio also said Wells Fargo has the "best combination" of earnings power, pre-tax pre-provision return on assets, tangible book value per share growth and valuation.
"Not only do we view Wells Fargo as a good long term buy, given the recent pull back and the upcoming 10K release we also think it potentially represents a good short term trade," he said.
Mustacio is just the latest to reassert his bright outlook on Wells Fargo shares in recent days. Despite apparent investor concern and the dearth of information about Atkins' intentions, Wall Street analysts have veered toward bullish, figuring that the company has a strong management team with a long history at the company and trusting their word.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Joe Morford , for instance, made a similar call on Tuesday.
Of 32 analysts who rate the stock, 21 consider it a buy or strong buy, according to Thomson Reuters, with just four advising clients to avoid Wells Fargo shares.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York
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