Nomura Analyst Sees Wells Fargo Needing to Put Up a Stronger Fight

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Nomura Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) has been under fire after the debacle over opening millions of unauthorized accounts for its customers. CEO John Stumpf also remains under pressure. Now we have a report from Nomura maintaining a Buy rating and a $53 price target on Wells Fargo.

Before thinking this report is just one of praise based on the $44.88 close, the take here of Nomura’s Bill Carcache is that it’s time to put up a stronger fight. Specifically, Wells Fargo needs to do a better job showing that the company did not really benefit from creating the unauthorized accounts.

Carcache pointed out that Wells Fargo has indicated that the fees generated by unauthorized accounts were financially immaterial, roughly $2.6 million or about 0.003% of net revenues and 0.006% of its fee income. He also believes that the benefit to Wells Fargo’s operating metrics was also immaterial.

Nomura estimates that the cross-sell ratio would have been reduced by just 0.1 products per household had the 2 million unauthorized accounts never been created. They were represented as being some 1.5 million deposit accounts and 565,000 credit card accounts.

Wednesday’s report said that the line of questioning in last week’s Senate hearing fueled the perception that the company’s wealthy executives were seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of low-level employees. Carcache thinks that Stumpf needs to push back harder against this insinuation. If the unauthorized accounts did not boost the financial and operating performance, then it seems hard to imagine how they could have boosted executive compensation.

Carcache’s report from Nomura thinks the near-term risks are manageable and that shares are oversold and should be accumulated on weakness. He said:

We conclude that Wells Fargo’s strong financial and operating performance through 2015 would have looked no different had the unauthorized accounts never been created. While we would not be surprised to see shares remain under pressure as developments continue to unfold in the near term, we expect no change in Wells Fargo’s earnings power and industry-leading return generation over the longer term, and recommend accumulating on weakness.

Wells Fargo shares closed up 0.5% at $45.09 on Tuesday, and they were indicated up 0.9% at $45.50 on Wednesday. The 52-week trading range is $44.50 to $56.34, and the consensus analyst price target is $50.89.