NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Even after a bank-stock rally, there are still hundreds of smaller companies whose shares are trading below book value. Among the largest, only a few were below tangible book at the end of January. Guggenheim Securities analyst Marty Mosby says that when a bank trades below tangible book value, "it's about risk management." "As you get to tangible book value, a bank has to produce profitability in excess of its cost of equity, in order to justify a meaningful premium to tangible book value," he says. The KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX) rose 30% during 2012 and went up another 5% in January, as investors digested another earnings season underscoring the industry's credit recovery and revenue challenges. Using data provided by Thomson Reuters Bank Insight, TheStreet has compiled a list of actively traded bank stocks that traded below tangible book value at the end of January. It's limited to banks for which year-end data were available and to stocks with average daily trading volume of at least 50,000 shares. The list is also limited to the 10 banks with the highest operating returns on average assets (ROA) during 2012. Of course, the price-to-book ratio is only one of many things to consider when picking bank stocks. Investors must also consider the timeline for greater profitability to support higher values. One of the most familiar names still trading below book value is Bank of America ( BAC), which didn't make the cut for our list because the company's 2012 ROA was only 0.19%. The company's shares closed at $11.32 Thursday, trading for 85% of their reported Dec. 31 tangible book value of $13.36. Mosby rates Bank of America "buy," with a $14 price target, which he says "represents what tangible book value would be as we move into 2014." Despite another year of mediocre earnings performance and plenty of lousy headlines, Bank of America's stock was the 2012 bank champion. No bank has more at stake in the unfolding U.S. housing recovery, mainly because of former CEO Ken Lewis's unfathomable decision for the company to take on Countrywide Financial's mortgage disaster in July 2008. Investors' unresolved mortgage repurchase claims against the company totaled $28.3 billion as of Dec. 31, increasing from $25.5 billion the previous quarter, and $12.6 billion a year earlier. Bank of America on Jan. 17 reported a fourth-quarter profit of $700 million, or 3 cents a share, after the company pre-announced a large mortgage putback settlement with Fannie Mae ( FNMA). The company also made a major contribution to the $8.5 billion foreclosure settlement between federal regulators and the nation's largest loan servicers. The Fannie settlement was a pivotal event, because the company's earnings presentation implied that its mortgage repurchase claims would decline by roughly $12.2 billion, bringing repurchase claims down to about $14.5 billion. Of course, that figure doesn't include new repurchase claims that may crop up during the first quarter, but it shows major progress. And every additional economic report showing improvement in the U.S. housing market makes investors more comfortable about the company's success in weathering the mortgage storm. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said during the company's earnings conference call that the company had achieved "strong results" in strengthening its balance sheet, increasing its estimated Basel III Tier 1 common equity ratio to 9.25% as of Dec. 31. The Basel III ratio was already significantly above the 8.5% that will be required in January 2019, when the Federal Reserve's enhanced capital requirements for systemically important financial institutions are fully phased in. When discussing the company's cost-cutting efforts, Moynihan said "we have reduced our employee count in each quarter in the last five and we have done that while we continue to invest in our targeted growth areas," and that "we reduced our delinquent mortgage count, which allowed us to reduce our
legacy asset servicing expenses," according to a transcript provided by Thomson Reuters. Mosby said in a report following the earnings release that "even though BAC has absorbed almost $10 billion in losses and charges over the last six quarters to resolve some of its mortgage-related issues, it has not posted a quarterly loss and tangible book value per share has grown 6%." The analyst also estimated "a range for potential remaining after-tax losses of $10 billion to $20 billion as compared to BAC's estimated current earnings power of around $10 billion a year." Mosby estimated that "as the remaining overhang issues continue to be resolved, or at least reduced, we believe BAC's discount to tangible book value should lessen to around 5%, or about $10 billion in expected losses." Another familiar name that didn't make our list of 10 most profitable banks trading below tangible book value, despite a decent 2012 ROA of 0.58%, is Hudson City Bancorp ( HCBK) of Paramus, N.J. The bank was excluded from the list because it agreed in August to be acquired by M&T Bank ( MTB) of Buffalo, N.Y., in a cash-and-stock deal that was valued at $3.7 billion. Another profitable company trading below tangible book value that was excluded from the list is Citizens Republic Bancorp ( CRBC) of Flint, Mich., which in September agreed to be acquired by FirstMerit ( FMER) of Akron, Ohio, in an all-stock deal that was valued at $912 million. The following are the 10 most profitable bank stocks trading below tangible book value, for which year-end data were available Friday. The list is ordered by ascending ROA:
10. Bank Mutual
Shares of Bank Mutual ( BKMU) of Milwaukee closed at $5.13 Thursday, returning 19% during January, following a 37% return during 2012. The shares traded for 0.9 times tangible book value, and for 19 times the consensus 2014 earnings estimate of 27 cents. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 23 cents. Based on a 2-cent quarterly payout, the shares have a dividend yield of 1.56%. During 2012, the company's ROA was 0.27%. The company had $2.4 million in total assets as of Dec. 31. The company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $2.3 million, or 5 cents a share, increasing from $2.0 million, or 4 cents a share the previous quarter, and $1.4 million, or three cents a share, a year earlier. The sequential improvement mainly reflected a $944 million loss on mortgage servicing rights and a $982 million negative amortization of mortgage servicing rights, both in the third quarter. The year-over-year earnings improvement reflected an increase in gains on loan sales to $3.3 million in the fourth quarter from $2.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Sterne Agee analyst Kenneth James has a "neutral" rating on Bank Mutual, and said in a report on Jan. 22 that positive developments for the company included improvements in credit quality, net interest margin and "recent loan growth." The net interest margin (NIM) is the spread between the average yield on loans and investments and the average cost for deposits and borrowings. With the Federal Reserve keeping its target short-term federal funds rate in a range of zero to 0.25% since late 2008, most banks have already seen most of the benefit of lower funding costs, while asset yields continue to reprice lower. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues its rapid balance sheet expansion in an attempt to hold long-term rates at low levels. Bank Mutual's net interest margin widened to 2.86% in the fourth quarter from 2.66% a year earlier, in part because "$100 million in high-cost borrowings from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago" matured during the third quarter. "The company remains a ways off from generating normal returns," James said, "but the combination of positive credit quality and revenue trends may draw the shares closer towards
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9. Astoria Financial
Shares of Astoria Financial ( AF) of Lake Success, N.Y., closed at $9.74 Thursday, returning 4% during January, following a 13% return last year. The shares reversed direction last year, following a 41% plunge during 2011. At the end of January, Astoria's stock was still down 30% since the end of 2010. A the end of January, the shares traded for 0.9 times tangible book value, and for 17.1 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of 57 cents. The Consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 52 cents. Based on a quarterly payout of 4 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 1.64%. Astoria's ROA for 2012 was 0.40%. The company had $16.5 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31. The company has had a particularly difficult time in the prolonged low-rate environment, as the prepayment of residential mortgage loans has kept its net interest margin at relatively low levels. Meanwhile, Astoria has been striving to grow its multifamily and commercial real estate businesses sufficiently to grow its earnings. Fourth-quarter earnings were $16.9 million, or 17 cents a share, increasing from $13.4 million, or 14 cents a share, in the third quarter, and $11.8 million, or 12 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. The net interest margin during the fourth quarter was 2.21%, improving from 2.09% the previous quarter, and 2.20% a year earlier. Average residential mortgage loan balances declined 5% year-over-year to $10.1 billion during the fourth quarter, while average multifamily and commercial real estate loans grew by 30% to $4.1 billion. Guggenheim Securities analyst David Darst has a "neutral" rating on Astoria, with a $10 price target, estimating the company will earn 53 cents a share this year, with EPS increasing to 56 cents in 2014. Along with its focus on growing its multifamily and commercial lending business, the company is also "building a stronger deposit gathering program through commercial bankers and
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Shares of Citigroup ( C) closed at $42.16 Thursday, returning 7% in January, following a 51% gain during 2012. Last year's performance reversed a 44% slide in 2011. The shares at the end of January were down 11% since the end of 2010. Citi's shares trade for 0.8 times tangible book value, and for 8.1 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $5.18. That is, by far, the lowest forward P/E for any of the stocks discussed here. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $4.60. The company's 2012 ROA was 0.57%. Mosby says that "Citigroup is trading below tangible book value because of their distressed assets within Citi Holdings." When Citi "can correct those issues and get full credit for their balance sheet, you can start to expect the stock to close the gap to tangible book value," he says. Citi Holdings is the subsidiary into which the company placed troubled and non-core assets as part of former CEO Vikram Pandit's "good bank/bad bank" strategy for right-sizing the company's balance sheet. Citigroup's current CEO Michael Corbat, who was elevated to that position in October, previously headed Citi Holdings, and has indicated his desire to accelerate the wind-down. Citi Holdings had $156 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, declining from $269 billion at the end of 2011 and $359 billion at the end of 2010. Corbat quickly made his mark, when Citigroup in early December announced plans to lower its expenses by $900 million in 2013, with savings expected to increase to $1.1 billion in 2014, with annual revenues expected to decline by less than $300 million. The measures included 11,000 employee layoffs and the closure of 84 branches. After Citigroup announced its fourth-quarter earnings -- including a $1 billion charge for expenses tied mainly to the layoffs -- Mosby said in a report on Jan. 18 that the "results highlighted a further reduction in potential future losses from Citi Holdings and improving core profitability." The analyst estimated that excluding Citi Holdings, main Citigroup subsidiary Citicorp's return on tangible common equity was between 13% and 14%. According to Mosby, "this level of core profitability should eventually warrant a 20% to 30% premium to tangible book value, not a discount." Mosby's price target for Citigroup's shares is $55.00. C data by YCharts
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7. HomeTrust Bancshares
HomeTrust Bancshares ( HTBI) of Ashville N.C., saw its stock return 13.51% in January, closing Thursday at $14.45. The shares were up 28% since the company's conversion from mutual to stock ownership on July 11. The shares trade for 0.8 times tangible book value. KBW analyst Brady Gailey is the only analyst covering the company, according to Thomson Reuters. The shares trade for 25.8 times Gailey's 2014 EPS estimate of 56 cents. Gailey's 2013 EPS estimate is also 56 cents. HomeTrust's ROA for the first half of its fiscal 2013 ended Dec. 31 was 0.42%. The company had $1.6 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31. For the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31, the company earned $2.3 million, or 11 cents a share. Earnings increased from $843,000 a year earlier, mainly because of a decline in the provision for loan losses. Net interest income for the fiscal second quarter was $13.6 million, declining from $14.2 million a year earlier, because of a 7% decline in in average loans. HomeTrust reported that nonperforming assets made up 5.36% of total assets as of Dec. 31, increasing from 4.67% the previous quarter and 5.67% a year earlier. While the nonperforming assets ratio is rather high, the company's loan loss reserves covered 2.89% as of Dec. 31. The bank also has plenty of excess capital, with a tangible common equity ratio of 23.56%. Gailey rates HomeTrust "outperform," estimating the company will earn 56 cents a share this year and also in 2014. "We continue to recommend the shares as we believe stock will trend towards
6. Capital Bank Financial
Shares of Capital Bank Financial ( CBF) of Coral Gables, Fla., closed at $15.47 Thursday, down 9% year-to-date. The shares were down 15% since the company's initial offering on Sept. 20. The shares trade for 0.7 times tangible book value, and for 11.4 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $1.36. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 89 cents. Capital Bank Financial was formed in 2009 by former Bank of America vice chairman Gene Taylor. The bank initial raised $865 million to acquire weak or failing banks in the Southeast. The company's 2012 ROA was 0.45% and it had $7.3 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, having completed five acquisitions. FBR analyst Paul Miller rates Capital Bank Financial "outperform," with a price target of $22.50, estimating the company will earn 95 cents a share this year, with earnings shooting up to $1.75 a share in 2014. Miller said that his rating is based on the expectation that "management will be able to successfully execute on the company's acquisition strategy, which should provide significant return improvements to shareholders by year-end 2014." His 2014 EPS estimate for Capital Bank Financial "assumes that the company will be levered to 8% tangible common equity to assets on January 1, 2014." The company's tangible common equity ratio was 15.85% as of Dec. 31, according to Thomson Reuters Bank Insight. CBF data by YCharts
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5. Popular Inc.
Shares of Popular Inc. ( BPOP), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, closed at $26.84 Thursday, returning 29% during January, following a 50% return during 2012. The stock's 2012 performance was a partial recovery from a 56% drop during 2011. At the end of January, the shares were down 15% since the end of 2010. Popular's shares trade for 0.9 time tangible book value, and for 9.4 times the consensus 2014 EPS of $2.86. That's the second-lowest forward P/E among this group of 10 stocks trading below tangible book value as of Jan. 31. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $2.49. The company's ROA was 0.68% during 2012, and it had $36.5 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31. The company was able to make the most of a severe recession in the island territory by purchasing the failed Westernbank Puerto Rico from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in April 2010. That acquisition included $9.4 billion in assets, $8.6 billion in deposits and 46 branches. Popular on Jan. 24 reported fourth-quarter earnings applicable to common stock of $83.9 million, or 81 cents a share, increasing from $46.3 million, or 45 cents a share in the third quarter, and $2 million, or 2 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Declining credit costs were the main factor in the earnings improvement, as the company in the fourth quarter transferred $3.5 million from loan loss reserves, after having made provisions for reserves of $22.6 million the previous quarter, and $55.9 million a year earlier. The company reported that its nonperforming portfolio loans were at their lowest level since the second quarter of 2009. The ratio of nonperforming loans to total loans (excluding loan balances covered by FDIC loss-sharing) improved to 6.7% as of Dec. 31, from 8.44% a year earlier. RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy rates Popular "outperform," although with "above-average risk," with a price target of $29.00. The analyst said in a report on Jan. 28 that although the company is still working through credit issues and "has several challenges to address in the near term, the company's fourth quarter performance reinforces our belief that it has turned the corner on credit and the common stock remains attractive at current levels." Cassidy expects the Puerto Rican economy to emerge from its five-year recession this year. He also said that "a substantial in competitive pressures in the primary footprint may impact expected performance." The analyst estimates that Popular will earn $2.45 a share this year, with EPS rising to $2.75 in 2014. BPOP data by YCharts
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4. First Commonwealth Financial
Shares of First Commonwealth Financial ( FCF) of Indiana, Pa., closed at $7.07 Thursday, returning 3% during January following a 35% return in 2011. The shares traded just below tangible book value at the end of January, and for 13.3 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of 53 cents. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 48 cents. Based on a 5-cent quarterly payout, the shares have a dividend yield of 2.83%. The company repurchased $37 million worth of common shares during 2012, and was authorized to buy back approximately $13 million in additional shares as of Dec. 31. First Commonwealth in January announced a new authorization to buy back up to $25 million in additional shares. The company had $6 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, and its 2012 ROA was 0.71%. First Commonwealth reported fourth-quarter earnings of $8.7 million, or 9 cents a share, declining from $9.8 million, or 9 cents a share, in the third quarter, but improving from a net loss of $5.7 million, or 5 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. The sequential earnings decline mainly resulted from "a $1.9 million termination fee for a joint venture with another financial institution" in the third quarter. The fourth-quarter 2011 net loss reflected a $25.9 million provision for credit losses, taken as the company aggressively wrote-down nonperforming commercial real estate loans. The company's fourth-quarter net interest income was $48.2 million, increasing from $47.7 million in the third quarter, although it was down from $48.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. The fourth-quarter net interest margin was 3.57%, compared to 3.54% the previous quarter and 3.78% a year earlier. First Commonwealth CFO Bob Rout said during the company's earnings conference call on Jan. 30 that he previously expected the margin to contract by 5 to 7 basis points per quarter, but that he would "probably back off on that somewhat, based upon fourth-quarter results." Miller rates First Commonwealth Financial "outperform," with an $8 price target, and estimates the company will earn 52 cents a share this year and 57 cents a share in 2014. The analyst said in a report on Thursday that "despite a rocky road to normalized earnings (we estimate closer to $0.15/share/quarter in this environment), we continue to recommend FCF at these levels, given attractive valuation and capital deployment." Looking ahead over the next few years, Miller sees the company to see major benefits from the increasing natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation, with an expanded bid to "leverage its relationships to both drillers and ancillary service providers." Miller also sees a possible sale for First Commonwealth over the next few years, saying that "its exposure to Marcellus Shale, low-cost deposit franchise, and digestible size could make it an attractive target." The analyst also pointed out that during 2011, there were three bank acquisition deals for over $100 million in Pennsylvania, at an average price-to-tangible-book ratio of 1.57, "and an average one-day premium of 54%." FCF data by YCharts
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3. First Financial Holdings
Shares of First Financial Holdings ( FFCH) of Charleston, S.C., closed at $15.15 Thursday, returning 16% this year, following a 49% return during 2012. The shares traded for 0.9 times tangible book value, and for 13.3 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $1.14. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $1.16. The company had $3.2 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, and its 2012 ROA was 0.9%. First Financial Holdings reported fourth-quarter net income available to common shareholders of $6.8 million, or 41 cents a share, increasing from $5.7 million, or 34 cents a share, in the third quarter, but declining from $14.6 million, or 88 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. During the fourth quarter of 2011, the company booked a $12.7 million after-tax gain, following a bulk-loan sale. Net interest income grew to $35.1 million in the fourth quarter from $33.2 million the previous quarter, and $28.9 million a year earlier. The sequential growth in net interest income reflected a significant widening of the net interest margin to 4.69% in the fourth quarter from 4.35% in the third quarter and 3.91% in the fourth quarter of 2011. But First Financial's financial results have had many moving parts. The sequential margin expansion and increase in net interest income mainly reflected $3.6 million in cash that was received because a pool of loans acquired along with the failed Cape Fear Bank in 2009 had performed better than expected. The company said that the "net interest margin for the current quarter without the impact of the additional income was 4.15%." Of course, a net interest margin above 4% is still quite respectable in the current rate environment. The company also purchased the failed Plantation Federal Savings Bank of Pawleys Island, S.C., from the FDIC in April of last year, adding roughly $486 million in assets, $441 million in deposits, and six branches. Another notable item in First Financial's fourth-quarter earnings release included an increase in mortgage and other loan income to $6 million from $4.1 million the previous quarter and $2.7 million a year earlier. The company's pretax earnings were lowered by a $3.4 million impairment to its FDIC indemnity on acquired assets. Sterne Agee analyst Kenneth James has a "neutral" rating on First Financial Holdings, with EPS estimates of $1.14 for 2013 and $1.17 for 2014. The analyst said in a report on Jan. 28 that "We believe the valuation expansion of the past year largely reflects near-term prospects while longer-term visibility on continued progression to peer-like returns (ROA/ROE) remains somewhat clouded." James also said that "the emergence of higher interest rates will likely be required as we expect NIM pressure from current lofty levels to eat into the pre-provision, pretax ROA of the next two years." FFCH data by YCharts
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Shares of KeyCorp ( KEY) of Cleveland closed at $9.40 Thursday, returning 12% during January, following a 12% gain last year. The shares were trading just below tangible book value, and for 9.9 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of 95 cents. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 85 cents. Based on a quarterly payout of 5 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 2.13%. KeyCorp had $89.2 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31. The company's 2012 ROA was 0.99%. The company reported fourth-quarter net income attributable to common shareholders of $197 million, or 21 cents a share, compared to $214 million, or 23 cents a share, in the third quarter, and $194 million, or 20 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Earnings declined sequentially because the company in the third quarter recorded a $54 million gain on the redemption of trust preferred securities. Fourth-quarter earnings were also lowered by $16 million, or a penny a share, from expenses associated with the company's cost-cutting program. The fourth-quarter bright spot for KeyCorp was an increase in net interest income to $607 million, from $578 million the previous quarter and $563 million a year earlier. The net interest margin expanded to 3.37%, from 3.23% in the third quarter, and 3.13% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The margin expanded mainly resulted from an improving funding mix, as trust preferred shares were redeemed, long-term debt matured, and higher-paying CD deposits matured. Mosby rates KeyCorp a "buy," with a price target of $11.50, and estimates the company will earn 82 cents a share this year, increasing to 90 cents a share in 2014. The analyst said in a report on Jan. 28 that the company has "two critical strategic objectives: derisk the business model and rebuild its profitability." Mosby said that KeyCorp was "well under way" in accomplishing the first objective, by shrinking its portfolio of "troubled portfolio of homebuilder, RV, leases, HELOC, and marine loans," by roughly 50% over the past three years, to "under $3 billion." "By implementing over $150 million in efficiency initiatives, deploying excess capital to rein in the outstanding share count at discount prices, and looking for strategic growth opportunities, we believe KEY can start to improve profitability levels in 2013," he said. KEY data by YCharts
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1. Synovus Financial
Shares of Synovus Financial ( SNV) of Columbus, Ga., closed at $2.58 Thursday, returning 5% this year, following a 78% increase in 2012. The shares dropped 45% in 2011. From the end of 2010 through January, the total return for Synovus's shares was 2%. The stock at the end of January traded for 0.9 times tangible book value, and for 14.3 times the consensus 2013 EPS estimate of 18 cents. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is 12 cents. The company's 2012 ROA was 3.14%, reflecting the recapture of "substantially all" of the its deferred tax asset valuation allowance. Synovus said in its fourth-quarter earnings release that the DTA recapture added $800 million to the fourth-quarter bottom line, and "drove the $0.89 increase in tangible book value per share during the quarter to $2.96." The DTA recapture was very important for Synovus, which had been working for years to work through its nonperforming loans. Nonperformers totaled $543.3 million as of Dec. 31, or 2.78% of total loans, steadily improving from 4.4% a year earlier. The company's next milestone is to repay $967.9 million in federal bailout funds received through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, in December 2008. The preferred shares held by the government have a 5% coupon, which will increase to 9% at the end of this year, providing a healthy incentive for the company to exit TARP. Jefferies analyst Emlen Harmon has a neutral rating on Synovus and on Jan. 23 said he was expecting the company to redeem the TARP preferred shares during the second quarter, "with the assumption that two-thirds of the TARP redemption is funded through balance sheet liquidity and a third is funded through preferred equity issuance at a 7% yield." "The redemption should drive improved profitability," Harmon said, "as the company funds the redemption with the sale of lower-yielding assets, shrinking the balance sheet and lowering preferred dividends in the process." SNV data by YCharts
Interested in more on Synovus Financial? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock. -- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla. >Contact by Email. Follow @PhilipvanDoorn