As a large-cap stock with market capitalization of US$171.59b, Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) is classified as a major bank. As these large financial institutions revert back to health after the Global Financial Crisis, we are seeing an increase in market confidence, and understanding of, these “too-big-to-fail” banking stocks. After the crisis, a set of reforms called Basel III was created with the purpose of strengthening regulation, risk management and supervision in the banking sector. These reforms target bank level regulation and aims to improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from economic stress which could expose financial institutions to vulnerabilities. Operating in USD, C is held to strict regulation which focus investor attention to the type and level of risk it takes on. Investors are viewing C with a more cautious lens and analysing these stocks using bank-specific metrics such as liquidity and leverage. Today we’re going to take a look at these metrics to gain more confidence investing in the stock. See our latest analysis for Citigroup
Is C’s Leverage Level Appropriate?Banks with low leverage are better positioned to weather adverse headwinds as they have less debt to pay off. A bank’s leverage may be thought of as the level of assets it owns compared to its own shareholders’ equity. While financial companies will always have some leverage for a sufficient capital buffer, Citigroup’s leverage ratio of 9.47x is very safe and substantially below the maximum limit of 20x. This means the bank has a sensibly high level of equity compared to the level of debt it has taken on to maintain operations which places it in a strong position to pay back its debt in unforeseen circumstances. If the bank needs to increase its debt levels to firm up its capital cushion, there is plenty of headroom to do so without deteriorating its financial position.
How Should We Measure C’s Liquidity?Since loans are relatively illiquid, we should know how much of the bank’s total assets are comprised of these loans. Usually, they should not be higher than 70% of total assets, which is the case for Citigroup, with a ratio well-below the maximum level at 34.37%. This ratio suggests that less than half of the bank’s total assets are made up of loans, but the bank’s strong liquidity management may be at the price of generating higher interest income.
Does C Have Liquidity Mismatch?C profits by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge an interest on the principle. These loans tend to be fixed term which means they cannot be readily realized, conversely, on the liability side, customer deposits must be paid in very short notice and on-demand. The discrepancy between loan assets and deposit liabilities threatens the bank’s financial position. If an adverse event occurs, it may not be well-placed to repay its depositors immediately. Compared to the appropriate industry loan to deposit level of 90%, Citigroup’s ratio of over 65.98%is noticeably lower, which means the bank is lending out less than its total level of deposits and positions the bank cautiously in terms of liquidity as it has not disproportionately lent out its deposits and has retained an apt level of deposits. There is opportunity for the bank to increase its interest income by lending out more loans.
Citigroup ticks all the boxes for operational prudency in terms of liquidity and leverage. These factors often sideline next to other fundamentals but are equally important to consider as part of the investment thesis. High liquidity and low leverage places the bank in an ideal position to repay financial liabilities in case of adverse headwinds. Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. I’ve put together three essential factors you should further examine:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for C’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for C’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is C worth today? Has the future growth potential already been factored into the price? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether C is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.