I first spotted US Bancorp (USB) when reviewing Berkshire Hathaway’s stock holdings back in February. This past week I read about US Bancorp again when a member of Value Investing News posted a link to “The Complete User’s Guide to Warren Buffett’s Portfolio” by James Altucher. I have been meaning to analyze US Bancorp for the past month, but my lack of skills in valuing banks has kept me from spending the time that I would need to analyze this company. Jame’s article convinced me it was time to upgrade my skills and tackle valuing US Bancorp.
James Altucher made some great points in his article for why Warren Buffett has added to his position in US Bancorp and why it might still be a good buy now. US Bancorp has been outperforming other banks with a 23 percent return on equity. The average for the banking industry as a whole is only 10 percent. Even more impressive is the fact that US Bancorp’s return on equity has been increasing even while the yield curve has inverted. Many banks struggle to be profitable when short term interest rates climb above long term interest rates because it makes it difficult for them to profit from the spread between the money they lend out and the interest they pay depositors, and that’s why services as Car Title Loans are really essential for this.
James’s thinks Wall Street is throwing the baby out with the bath water with US Bancorp. The collapse of stock prices in the subprime mortgage sector has also dragged down stock prices for almost all banks. There is widespread concern about credit quality. However as James points out, the credit quality of US Bancorp’s loans has actually gone up over the past quarter.
Warren Buffett is an expert in investing in regional banks. Given that USB is almost 5% off its recent lows and its price is close to what Warren Buffett recently purchased it for, James argues that the stock is a strong buy here. The argument is very compelling, so I decided to try my hand at valuing this company.
Since I’m not familiar with valuing bank stocks, I decided to visit the website of an expert on stock valuation, Aswath Damodaran. On his site, I found a dividend discount model spreadsheet designed specifically to value financial service called eqexret.xls. The spreadsheet uses the payout ratio for the high growth period and the expected growth rate in earnings per share to estimate the expected dividends in the high growth period. The expected growth rate in earnings is calculated by simply taking the retention ratio and multiplying it by the return on equity. I understand the basics of how this model works, but I’m not familiar enough to know its weaknesses.
I used the following inputs in the dividend discount model:
- Net Income = $4,703.00
- Book Value of Common Equity = $20,197.00 in 2006 and $20,086.00 in 2005
- Current Earnings per share = $2.64
- Current Dividends per share = $1.39
- Number of shares outstanding = 1,778
- Beta of the stock = 1.00
(It was actually 0.75 on Yahoo but I prefer to use a risk neutral beta.)
- Riskfree rate= 4.65%
- Risk Premium= 5.00%
- Length of high growth period = 10 years
(Because I feel this is a wide moat business.)
- Growth rate in stable growth period = 5.0% based on nominal GDP growth
After making these inputs the spreadsheet output the following:
- Return on Equity = 23.41%
- Retention Ratio = 47.35%
- Expected growth rate = 11.09%
- Cost of equity = 9.65%
Since earnings have been stable at US Bancorp, I did not normalize earnings. I also maintained all the same inputs for the stable growth period, except for the growth rate. The bottom line is that I found each share of USB to worth $62.69. Shares of USB are currently trading for $34.90, so the margin of safety is 44%.
I definitely encourage you to review my inputs and assumptions. You can review my whole USB dividend discount model spreadsheet online using Google Spreadsheets. I’m sure many of you have a different take on these inputs and some of you might even challenge the model I used. Do you know of a better way to value banks? Share your thoughts below. I look forward to the discussion.
Full Disclosure: I do not currently own shares in any of the stocks discussed in this article.