Play 'Vegas Recovery' With This Bank Stock: Credit Suisse

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Western Alliance Bancorporation ( WAL) has weathered the brutal real estate meltdown in Arizona and Nevada, and is now ready to "restore top-tier profitability," according to Credit Suisse analyst Matthew Clark.

Credit Suisse on Friday initiated its coverage of the Phoenix-based lender, with an "outperform" rating and a price target of $22, which would represent a 21% gain from Thursday's closing share price of $18.16.

Western Alliance had $8.6 billion in total assets as of June 30, mainly through three bank subsidiaries, including Western Alliance Bank of Phoenix, Bank of Nevada of Las Vegas and Torrey Pines Bank of San Diego.

The holding company owes $141 million to the Small Business Lending Fund, which is a program run by the U.S. Treasury, enabling participating banks to repay federal bailout funds received through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP. Western Alliance is the largest participant in SBLF, and has certainly been meeting the goals of the program, by growing its commercial loan portfolio at a strong pace.

Total loans were $6.41 billion as of June 30, increasing 24% from $5.16 billion a year earlier, although the growth included a $343 million increase from the acquisition of Centennial Bank of Fountain Valley, Calif., in April.

SBLF has turned out to be a very low-cost source of capital for Western Alliance, since the dividend on the preferred shares held by the Treasury is just 1% for banks achieving an annual growth rate of 10% for commercial and industrial loans or loans secured by owner-occupied commercial real estate to businesses with less than $50 million in annual revenue. In April 2016, the annual dividend on SBLF preferred shares for all participants is set to increase to 9%.

"We expect WAL to pay back the SBLF with retained earnings before the reset date and still maintain Tier 1 capital in excess of 9.50% under Basel III," Clark wrote in a note to investors on Friday.

Bank of Nevada was operating under a regulatory memorandum of understanding (MOU) that required the bank to maintain higher-than-normal capital ratios and obtain regulators' approval of any dividend payments to the holding company. This MOU was lifted in July, removing the last regulatory order for any of Western Alliance's subsidiary banks.

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