Regions Financial: Another Bank Earnings Loser

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Regions Financial ( RF) was the loser among the largest U.S. financial companies on Tuesday, with shares sliding 8% to close at $6.54.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 243 points to close at 13,102.61, while the S&P 500 ( SPX.X) was down 20.7 points to close at 1,413.12, and the NASDAQ Composite pulled back 1%, after the disappointing third-quarter earnings reports continued.

Shares of du Pont ( DD) dropped 9% to close at $45.25, after the diversified industrial company reported third-quarter earnings of $10 million, or a penny a share, declining from $452 million, or 48 cents a share, during the third quarter of 2011. The company said that "earnings from continuing operations, excluding significant items, were $.32 per share versus $.60 per share in the prior year."

Du Pont reported third-quarter net sales of $7.4 billion, declining from $8.1 billion a year earlier, "primarily reflecting volume declines in Electronics & Communications and Performance Chemicals, particularly in Asia Pacific."

The company also announced a restructuring plan, expected to "deliver pre-tax cost savings of about $450 million ($300 million in 2013) by eliminating corporate costs supporting Performance Coatings and taking additional cost-cutting actions to improve competitiveness." The actions will include 1,500 employee layoffs "globally in the next 12-18 months."

Du Pont also said it expected full year earnings from continuing operations ranging from $3.25 to $3.30 a share for all of 2012. CEO Ellen Kullman said that "continuing macroeconomic uncertainty and resulting slowing demand in certain sectors are reminders of why agility and productivity must be a way of life."

Turning to the financials, the KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX) fell 2% to close at 49.55, with all but three of the 24 index components showing declines for the session.

Regions Surprises

Regions Financial of Birmingham, Ala., reported third-quarter net earnings from continuing operations available to common shareholders of $312 million, or 22 cents a share, increasing from $280 million, or 20 cents a share, the previous quarter, and $87 million, or seven cents a share, during the third quarter of 2011.

The third-quarter results beat the consensus estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters by a penny, as mortgage banking income grew to $106 million, from $90 million the previous quarter, and $68 million a year earlier, however, investors were surprised to see the company's net interest margin decline by eight basis points from the previous quarter, to 3.08%.

A bank's net interest margin is the difference between its average yield on loans and investments and the average cost for deposits and borrowings. Most regional banks are seeing net interest margins narrow, because they have already seen most of savings on funding costs, as he Federal Reserve has kept its short-term federal funds rate in a target range of between zero and 0.25% since late 2008, while the central bank last month announced it was increasing its purchases of long-term mortgage-backed securities by $40 billion a month, in an effort to keep long-term rates at historically low levels.

Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin predicted before the market open that Regions Financial's net interest margin decline would "be seen as disappointing given that the company had guided to stable NIM and flattish net interest income for the back half of the year." The company's net interest declined significantly, to $817 million in the third quarter, from $838 million in the second quarter, and $850 million, in last year's third quarter.

Guggenheim analyst Marty Mosby points out that Regions did see its net interest margin increase from 3.04% in the third quarter of2011, and also says that "their margin compressed because last quarter was higher than it should have been," because of recoveries on problem loans.

Mosby adds that "earnings from operations increased by 10% from last quarter, which reflects over 80 cents in annualized earnings power." The analyst sees a buying opportunity for investors right now, because "tangible book value that grew 5% and now exceeds seven dollars," and the company's "earnings power can easily justify an $8 stock price."

Shares of Regions Financial have now returned 53% year-to-date, following a 38% decline during 2011.

The shares for 0.9 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $7.02, and for eight times the consensus 2013 EPS estimate of 80 cents.

RF Chart RF data by YCharts

Interested in more on Regions Financial? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.


-- 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 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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