Bank valuations look interesting

Marcus Bogdan

Blackmore Capital

For the best part of two decades, Australian banks enjoyed a golden period of share market outperformance. The banking sector was able to deploy significant capital at very attractive rates of return. It has only been since 2015 that the banks have underperformed the ASX 200 on a consistent basis.

The recent underperformance of banks has been driven by a combination of tightening global capital requirements, tightening credit standards, rising compliance costs (Banking Royal Commission) and a derating of valuation metrics. Undoubtedly, significant headwinds remain for the banking industry. Indeed, earnings per share growth is expected to remain muted for the banking sector over the forecast period.

Housing headwinds

The state of the housing market remains fundamentally important for the outlook for retail banks. Economic conditions for the housing market remain challenging, with the expectation of further declines in property prices coupled with moderating credit growth. Nevertheless, mortgage delinquency rates should remain at manageable levels supported by interest rates remaining at historically low levels and employment levels remaining stable. 

It is noteworthy that over the previous two decades mortgage losses have remained benign despite periods when house prices have declined. However, vigilance on monitoring the current credit cycle and the potential rise in non-performing loans (NPL’s) remains of paramount importance.

But... bad news all priced in?

We would contend that there is now a great deal of negative information already reflected in the retail bank share prices.

Valuations for the banks are now looking interesting, most notably with Return on Equity metrics decreasing to more sustainable levels. 

Commonwealth Bank is appealing to us, as earnings and valuation metrics have suitably moderated to more viable levels. While we expect Commonwealth's earnings profile to show only low single-digit growth over the forecast period, its capital position and ability to continue to pay high dividends offers support.

In general, with the trajectory of earnings growth moderating for ASX companies, Commonwealth’s low growth and maintainable high dividend yield provides appeal. 

Importantly, CBA is well placed to exceed APRA’s mandated 10.5% “unquestionably strong” CET1 by January 2020.

CBA’s dividend should be underpinned by its strong capital position, providing investors with an attractive c. 6% fully franked dividend yield. With interest rates expected to stay at/or near record lows, dividend income remains a compelling source of income.

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Marcus Bogdan
Chief Investment Officer
Blackmore Capital

Marcus is the co-founder and CIO of Blackmore Capital. Marcus' career spans over 27+ years focussed on Large Cap Australian Equities including work as a research analyst at McIntosh/Merrill Lynch, Portfolio Manager at Cooper Investors, and CIO...

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