Small Banking Revisited

Periodically I encounter an article that hits at the core of one of my strategies.  As many of  you know, I’m currently a little overweight financials with an emphasis on regional banks.  This was not always the case as I (fortunately) exited the sector in late 2007  reentering only in early 2013.  My five year pause was bookended by what Richard J. Parsons refers to as the Great Panic of 2008-2009.  His article, Finding Alpha In Reliable Dividend Banks(14 June 2017) struck a chord with me and illustrated some of the style I came to embrace for a time. Though I’m not selling my banks, other than special situations, I’m currently not a buyer either.  If you are a bank investor (or considering being one) I’d recommend reading his article.

His article highlights 30 regionals that actually raised dividends during the Panic.  By comparison, my hypothesis was segmented into three ‘buckets’ which were:
1.Good dividend payers
2.Stock dividend payers
3.Acquisition candidates

Although he includes some stock payers (CMBH, AROW, SBSI, and FLIC (roundups on splits)) this is not his article’s focus.  I’ve written on these before so I’ll exclude them.

His article also points out that only one of the original 30 was acquired which is a slight disappointment when one of my goals is to obtain a merger premium.  Several on his list were acquirers which kind of proves my rationale to expand the universe to include potential acquisition targets in my bank holdings a couple of years ago.

Leaving us with his list.  One notable point is his geographic analysis.  “Certain states are more likely to be home to these reliable dividend banks: Indiana, Texas, California, Kentucky, Missouri, and upper state New York.”  This melds with my findings though I attributed this to state regulatory agencies as certain states had disproportionate numbers of bank failures.  Therefore I excluded western (California) and southern US banks.  To his mix, I found Pennsylvania to be a viable candidate as well.  This difference could be that mutual conversions (notably preeminent in PA, NY, NJ, VA and MA) were identified as likely targets by my study.

Another note on his analysis, “…a few critical factors influence long-term success in banking: hands-on expert management…”  In fact he elaborates a little on this in the comment stream.  A tidbit is both Missouri banks on his list were established by the Kemper family.

So the actual question is how do my portfolio holdings stack up against his list?  Half of the thirty are owned.  Of the nine owned by Richard, seven are owned (one obtained via a merger).  One being in California was excluded by geographic screening.  I’m not sure offhand though, why I excluded CBU out of New York.  My primary takeaway from his article was a validation of my strategy and I need to further investigate a few.

His complete list follows:

Access National ANCX 1.4B VA
Arrow Financial Corp. AROW 2.7B NY
Auburn National Bancorp AUBN .8B AL
BancFirst Corp.   BANF 7.2B OK
Bar Harbor Bankshares  BHB 3.4B ME
Bank of Marin Bancorp BMRC 2.0B CA
Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. BMTC 3.3B PA
Bank of Oklahoma   BOKF 32.6B OK
Commerce Bancshares   CBSH 25.3B MO
Community Bank System CBU 8.9B NY
Cullen/Frost Bankers CFR 30.5B TX
Community Trust Bancorp CTBI 4.0B KY
First Capital  FCAP .8B IN
First of Long Island Corp.  FLIC 3.6B NY
Farmers & Merchants Bancorp  FMCB 3.0B CA
Horizon Bancorp   HBNC 3.2B IN
National Bankshares NKSH 1.2B VA
Norwood Financial Corp.  NWFL 1.1B PA
Bank of the Ozarks OZRK 19.2B AR
Prosperity Bancshares  PB 22.5B TX
People’s United Financial, Inc.   PBCT 40.2B CT
Stock Yards Bancorp  SYBT 3.0B KY
Tompkins Financial Corp.  TMP 6.3B NY
United Bankshares UBSI 14.8B WV
UMB Financial Corp.  UMBF 20.6B MO
Westamerica   WABC 5.4B CA
Washington Trust  WASH 4.4B RI
First Source  SRCE 5.5B IN
First Financial THFF 3.0B IN
Southside Bancshares SBSI 5.7B TX
Bold-owned by Richard, Italics-owned by me

Recent Buy – KSU

ksu

Usually I don’t announce my incremental purchases, preferring instead to report in bulk as part of my monthly recap.  There are occasions when an exception is warranted so I figured I’d share my thought process with this week’s post – and the subsequent events.

Kansas City Southern is the smallest of the Class I railroads in the US and operates in Mexico through a wholly owned subsidiary.  Since the election, it has been beaten down as Mexico is reviewing its’ concession, concerns over NAFTA trade and a weakened peso (impacting earnings).

While reviewing my holdings last weekend, I noticed:

  1. The price appeared to have hit bottom and began moving higher
  2. The current price was significantly lower than my $115.07 cost basis
  3. The ex-dividend date was around the corner (Jun 12th)
  4. The Mexican peso has risen over 5% (now 6%) against the USD since October

Figuring there was minimal downside left, on Monday (June 5th) I bought enough (at $95.87) to average down my cost basis to $98.69 – though it’s still less than 1% of my portfolio.

Where it gets interesting is:

  • June 6th – US and Mexico reach agreement on sugar trade – KSU closes at $96.57
  • June 7th – US appears to seek resolution in lumber spat with Canada ($97.46 close)
  • June 8th – Guy Adami (CNBC’s Fast Money) announces position ($98.86 close)
  • June 9th – Pete Najarian (Fast Money) announces position ($99.59 close)

I certainly did not expect this level of activity but sure am glad I chose to average down when I did.  Also not sure what option activity got Fast Money’s attention but suspect we’ll see a little pullback as we go ex-dividend.  Still, 3.7% price improvement in a week and now I’m no longer underwater plus the dividend (small though it may be) – have to say it was a good week!

Now to attempt an encore …

May 2017 Update

May was generally quiet with the market trending generally higher.  With few pullback opportunities, I barely deployed new dividends so my cash position increased again.  At least the turmoil I experienced moving from Loyal3 subsided and I could resume a more moderate pace.  An upcoming election in the UK may present a buying opportunity on weakness in the GBP versus the US dollar.  The S&P ended the month up 1.16% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.37%.  For the year (so far), I’m ahead of the index by 4.07%

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 5/1 – DRE sells medical office portfolio to HTA
  • 5/1 – TIS suspends dividend
  • 5/4 – FHN to acquire CBF
  • 5/30 – JNS/HGG.L merger completed (becoming JHG)
  • 5/31 – KEY acquires HelloWallet from MORN

Portfolio Updates:

  • Initiated position in SGAPY
  • Added to IVZ
  • Added to PWCDF (proceeds from sale of TIS)
  • Added to DST
  • Added to PLD

Dividends:

  • May delivered an increase of 51.44% over May 2016 with the vast majority of this attributable to foreign dividend cycles not held last year.
  • May delivered an increase of 38.94% over last quarter (Feb) for the same reason.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 8.89% with 48.02% of my portfolio delivering at least one increase (2 cuts – XRX and YUM; 1 suspension – TIS)
  • YTD dividends received were 47.11% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last year’s total in early November.

Note: with 14.6% of current dividends paid by foreign sources, the weakening US dollar is providing a tailwind with exchange rates i.e., increasing my return.

Spinoffs:

The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains in regulatory review.

Mergers:

Agrium/POT, SGBK/HOMB remain pending