Banking & Finance

Analysts Stick by Wells Fargo After Investor Day

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) has hosted its investor day, and analysts so far have made positive calls after the event. Some negative comments have been made after the lowering of expected return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE). In light of rates on topic and with such lower industry growth, that might be expected.

Several things were issued at the investor day this week. Wells Fargo did lower ROA and ROE targets, and it will close 60 to 70 branches in 2016. The firm is watching online lending and sees the mortgage industry being at a crossroads. Wells Fargo is also releasing its mobile wallet.

24/7 Wall St. tracked several analyst reports after the investor day commentary.

Nomura equity analyst Bill Carcache said that Wells Fargo revised its two-year ROA and ROE targets lower, relative to previous targets given at the 2014 investor day. This was due to a combination of low rates, higher liquidity and higher provision expense in the near term. Carcache reiterated his Buy rating and $58 price target, saying:

Longer term, the company believes returns are likely to return to higher levels. Efficiency and net payout ratio targets remain unchanged. Overall, we walked away from the presentation encouraged by the company’s relentless pursuit of cross-sell opportunities and deepening of existing relationships, organic growth outlook, and investment initiatives in technology and digital capabilities to drive efficiency and security improvements. Despite near-term challenges, we continue to expect relative outperformance from Wells Fargo, and we are reiterating our Buy rating.

Credit Suisse more or less echoed what Nomura said. The firm has an Outperform rating and $58 price target. Its report said Wells Fargo is well positioned and that its views offered seemed realistic. Credit Suisse said:

The meetings showcased the deep bench of talent and the breadth of businesses that drive this bank. Leadership is key; strategy is unchanged; prospects reflect both the macro backdrop and execution expertise—with the latter, management is determined to sustain above-average returns through the cycle. Was the discussion enough to support share price outperformance? The range for ROA/ROE targets over the next two years have been reduced 20/100bps—not the best way to start the day, but achievable, appropriate at this point in the cycle, and still well above the peer group average.

Management spoke to the bank’s positioning to sustain above-average revenue and earnings growth dependent in part on solid GDP growth (to support the top line) and realization of operating leverage.

Credit Suisse did talk about expectations for the growth of dividends and buybacks after the Fed’s upcoming stress test (June’s CCAR Fed report). The report showed its net capital payout target for the next two years is unchanged at 55% to 75%. CCAR 2015 net payouts will run about 59%, and the firm expects an increase to 65% to 75% for CCAR 2016.

Merrill Lynch reiterated its Buy rating and $57 price objective. The firm’s Erika Najarian believes that the lower ROE and ROA signal was well-anticipated and had been mostly reflected in consensus estimates and shares. Merrill Lynch gave five key takeaways:

1) Profitability targets move lower, but in the stock.
2) Expects NIM to benefit 5-15bp in the first year from a +100bp rate shock.
3) Expect more TLAC related debt issuances.
4) Conservative growth in securities business.
5) Potential strategic acquisitions such as GE assets.

Wells Fargo shares were last seen trading up 2.8% at $50.61 on Wednesday. It has a consensus analyst price target of$54.93, and it has a 52-week trading range of $44.50 to $58.77.

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