NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- "Banks are under attack," said Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get Report , following his company's lackluster earnings results the other week. But regional bank BB&T (BBT) - Get Report , North Carolina's second-largest bank, is not feeling any pressure. With BB&T posting record fourth-quarter and full-year profits Thursday, it's only a matter of time before estimates are raised. Investors should buy now.
For the period ending in December, BB&T said it earned $557 million, a 3.7% jump year over year, topping last year's mark of $537 million. This amounted to 76 cents per share, 1 cent higher than last year and enough to beat average estimates by 3 cents, according to Yahoo! Finance.
For the full year, BB&T said its earnings rose to $2 billion, or $2.75 per share -- a company record and a 25% year-over-year jump. The bank's record fourth-quarter and full-year profits underscores the extent BB&T's aggressive growth strategy has worked. Equally, and perhaps more important, it shows that BB&T's shopping spree has not hurt its bottom line and is likely to continue.
"These results were driven by very good expense control and strong performances from our mortgage banking, insurance and investment banking and brokerage businesses, which drove noninterest income to exceed $1 billion for the quarter," said Kelly King, BB&T's CEO.
The reference to noninterest is important here because it includes such things as deposit and transaction fees, annual fees, monthly account service charges and insufficient funds fees. Basically, these are revenue BB&T was able to generate, helping it establish more liquidity. It's also important because it shows BB&T's branch banking business is becoming more valuable, and is likely to remain that way in the foreseeable future.
To better compete with other regional banks including SunTrust (STI) - Get Report and Fifth Third Bank (FITB) - Get Report , BB&T said in November it agreed to buySusquehanna Bancshares (SUSQ) , headquartered in Pennsylvania, for $2.5 billion, giving it access to customers in the northeastern part of the country.
On Thursday, BB&T issued an update on the deal, saying the acquisition will add 245 retail branches with approximately $13.6 billion in deposits and $18.6 billion in assets. So with noninterest income already exceeding $1 billion in the fourth-quarter, which led to record profits, adding roughly $14 billion more in deposits and over $18 billion in assets will only increase the amount of fees BB&T will collect.
What's more, BB&T said it expected to save roughly $160 million annually once the Susquehanna deal closes. That is more money to boost future earnings.
The stock has an average analyst 12-month price target of $41, suggesting 15% gains from current levels of around $35. Aside from paying a 2.68% dividend yield, analysts expect BB&T to grow earnings at an annual rate of 7% over the next five years.
TheStreet Ratings team rates BB&T CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate BB&T CORP (BBT) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations, expanding profit margins, impressive record of earnings per share growth and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: BBT Ratings Report
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no position in the stocks mentioned.