Are Banks Overvalued?
The S&P 500 Bank Index is up 41% in one year. US Regional Banks’ price-earnings multiple was 16.6x and price to tangible book value was over 2x (see chart). So are banks over-valued?
It depends. One way to compare is to look at the p/e ratio compared to the market. The S&P 500 p/e currently stands at 24.6x. So it looks like bank stocks are not overvalued.
But hold on. One ratio that can help us out is the PEG ratio. Remember that in Finance class? It’s the p/e ratio divided by the earnings growth rate. According to Peter Lynch’s iconic book One Up on Wall Street, a stock is fairly priced if its PEG ratio was 1. Meaning if it’s p/e is 16.6x, like the US Regional Banks mentioned above, then the earnings growth rate should be 16.6%. I know I’m comparing a multiple to a growth percent. But, hey, I didn’t invent the PEG ratio.
The challenge with banks’ PEG ratio, as the chart shows, is that it is way over 1, by a factor of over 5 (5.7). I checked it against other industries in the Financial Services sector. Insurance brokerage has a PEG of 3.4. Specialty Finance: 0.4. The regional banks’ PEG ratio, if I do the reverse math, implies that earnings are growing around 3% for the banks in that index. Which is very close to the 3-year annual net income growth for all FDIC insured banks.
So by the PEG ratio, banks would appear to be over-valued. Which may be true. But I want to bring up two mitigating points about banks:
1. Banks are capital intensive. We must contemplate that implicit in their p/e ratio is some level of their tangible book value.
2. Banks are not, in general, growth stocks long term. Risk management and the legions of regulators work in tandem to limit growth.
Relating to 1, I did a data run of all banks and thrifts between $1 billion and $10 billion in total assets that were profitable. I checked their median p/e ratio. I then took their market cap and deducted their tangible common equity to deconstruct their p/e between tangible book and their market cap over tangible book (see chart).
It is true that other industries can deconstruct p/e in this fashion. But would such an analysis of other industries equate 56% of an industry’s p/e to it’s tangible book value?
Even if we deducted tangible book from p/e, the industry PEG would still be 2.53 (7.6x / 3% growth), more than double Peter Lynch’s prediction of fairly valued.
Which brings me to 2. How long can a company, a sector, and an industry grow faster than its markets? Certainly not forever. And for many, earning their p/e’s means stoking growth either through acquisition, or greater risk taking. One is risky, and the other can be deadly.
For these reasons, bankers may want to consider more moderate growth objectives, maximize earnings, and pay a larger portion of shareholder returns in dividends.
What is your opinion on bank valuations?
Note: I make no investment recommendations in my blog. I have a difficult time with my own portfolio.