Focused on the Wrong Things
JPMorgan is getting a lot of airtime, but we think for the wrong reason. While the media is preoccupied with Dimon's fate and the potential implications for the company, we're more interested in the fact that JPMorgan looks extremely compelling on an P/TBV:EVA basis.
For those unfamiliar, our approach to determining fair value for the banks looks at the interplay between EVA and price/tangible book value. The first chart below shows the strength of the relationship between these two factors. The R-Squared is 0.90. For reference, the strength of the relationship between P/TBV and Return on Tangible Capital alone is a less meaningful 0.68. In other words, EVA explains 90% of the variability in the price to tangible book value multiple. Our EVA approach looks at the difference between return on tangible capital and cost of capital. For cost of capital we're using CAPM with a 2% risk-free rate, a 9% long-term market return and a beta for JPM of 1.26.
By our calculations, JPMorgan is going to generate a return on tangible of 14.4% over the next twelve months with a cost of capital of 10.8%, resulting in a positive EVA of 3.8%. On our model, y =7.971x + 1.4568, JPMorgan's fair value is 175% of tangible book value [ 1.75 = (7.971 * .038 + 1.4568) * TBV) ], or $67.81. The stock is currently at 135% of tangible book value, or $52.29. As we show in the second chart below, this works out to 30% upside, or the most within the group on a relative basis.
There are a few narratives underpinning the discount.
* The first, and most obvious, reason is the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding today's annual shareholder meeting and the outcome of the dual CEO/Chairman role. That concern should be put to rest based on early reports that the shareholder proposal to split the roles has been defeated.
* The second reason goes back to CCAR, and the penalty box JPMorgan was put in by the Fed. As a reminder, the Fed didn't object to JPMorgan's plan, but required that they re-submit their plans to address weaknesses in their capital planning process by the end of the third quarter. If the Fed feels the weaknesses have not been sufficiently addressed, it can reject JPMorgan's plan. Recall that the company suggested that the Fed's concerns were qualitative in nature, not quantitative. On this issue, we think expectations are fairly low. It was a surprise when JPM and GS were flagged, but now, with expectations low, the surprise is more likely to be to the positive.
* Third, uncertainty around the Brown-Vitter DC dynamic is also unsettling investors. This is an interesting dynamic. As friend of the firm, Peter Atwater, who has held various senior management roles at Banc One and JPMorgan, likes to say, bank regulation is strongly inversely correlated with bank stock prices. We agree. Just look at the last five years. With financial markets hitting new, all-time highs and banks making progress alongside them, we think the probability of Brown-Vitter or something analagous is very low in the current environment. Moreover, there's an element of win/win here. As we see it, breaking up the global banks would ultimately unlock value, but we acknowledge the path from A to B would be unpleasant.
Valuation is never a catalyst, and we're not suggesting this time will be different. However, with the ongoing improvements in the labor, housing and capital markets we think the current discount in JPMorgan reflects overdone concerns around issues that should resolve themselves in the coming 6-12 months.
Joshua Steiner, CFA