Bank of America
-- what a mess.
It's no wonder the shares are down 66% so far this year -- that's right, just since 2009 started. The bank lost more than 60% last year and is pretty close to its 52-week low.
I know from experience what a disaster this Frankenstein of banks -- aka FrankenBank -- has become through all of its badly executed takeovers, dating back through the centuries. On its Web site, BofA proudly proclaims that its heritage dates back to 1784 and the charter for its earliest predecessor was signed by John Hancock when he was governor of Massachusetts.
But don't blame John Hancock for the nightmare that BofA became. That's a more recent phenomenon that I trace back to the takeover of San Francisco's BankAmerica by NationsBank of North Carolina in 1998. That's when "Bank of America" was officially born.
As far as I can tell, they botched that integration royally but kept on buying more -- at least 50 more, according to
Let me share a little story. I set up an account with Bank of America in California several years ago. Then I moved to New York and visited a local branch to make some changes to my account. They told me I'd have to go back to California because the computer systems weren't integrated and it had to be done in person. Say what?
If that's any indication, don't count on a smooth integration of
. Heck, we've already seen a stream of defections from the Merrill crew since BofA stepped in. No surprise there.
Now here we are now, with a price-to-earnings ratio of 7.56, among the lowest of the banks.
has a lower P-E of 6.71, but its share price is four times higher at $18.12.
has a P-E of 8.14 with a share price above $30.
has P-E of 9.58 with a share price above $15.
At the other end of the spectrum, have a look at
with a P-E of 22.96 and a share price of $17.30 or
, which has a P-E of 27.95 with a share price of $25.48. I'm leaving out those with a negative P-E like
So yes, Bank of America is cheap. But there's a reason for that.
Hall is the editor of
. Previously, he served as deputy editor and chief innovation officer at
The Orange County Register
and as a news manager at
in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. As a reporter, he covered business and financial markets, worked in both print and television in the U.S. and Europe, and conducted in-depth investigative coverage at
in Fort Wayne, Ind. His work also has been published in a variety of newspapers including
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
International Herald Tribune
. Hall received a bachelor�s degree in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University and has taken graduate management science courses at Boston University.