When will US Bancorp increase its dividend?

The bank showed strong internal growth in the fourth quarter.

By Jim J. Jubak Feb 6, 2012 4:25PM
Image: bank ATM (© Image Source/Corbis/Corbis)US Bancorp (USB) continues to gain market share from both acquisitions and internal growth. (The stock is a member of my Jubak's Picks portfolio.)

The latest acquisition, announced on Jan. 30, is the purchase of BankEast in deal coordinated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after the Tennessee bank was shut by regulators. It's a small deal -- with US Bancorp getting 10 branches in the Knoxville area, $272 million in assets, and $268 million in deposits -- but the price was right (a $68 million discount to total assets) and the acquisition fills a hole in the bank’s Tennessee business.

The deal is of a piece with the bank's strategy of using its post-Lehman relative strength to build its footprint at attractive prices.

You could also see that strength in the bank's fourth-quarter report of internal growth. Average loans in the quarter climbed by 5.9% year over year and 10% from the third quarter. Commercial loans grew by 16% year to year and residential mortgage loans were up 22% year to year.

For the quarter, earnings came to 64 cents a share, excluding 5 cents a share in non-recurring items. That was a penny above the Wall Street consensus. Revenue climbed by 8.1% year to year. The bank finished the quarter with a Tier 1 common equity ratio of 8.2% under the Basel III guidelines. That’s well above the 7% minimum under the Basel III rules. Return on equity was better than 16%.

Not that US Bancorp was exempt from all the problems facing the banking sector. For example, the bank’s net interest margin did fall as the bank added to its investment portfolio but at lower yields thanks to the Federal Reserve’s continued policy of extended exceptionally low interest rates. But net interest margins fell by just 0.05 percentage points from the third quarter for a still-healthy 3.6%.

The biggest question surrounding the stock right now is when will the bank increase its dividend payout. In 2007 -- before the global financial crisis -- the bank paid out 67% of earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks. In the fourth quarter of 2011 that payout ratio was just 29%. 

"Raising the dividend remains a top priority for this management team," CEO Richard Davis said in the bank’s conference call. The long-term goal, Davis added, is to raise the payout ratio to 60% to 80%. The bank has applied to the Federal Reserve for approval to raise its dividend. (The bank’s shares currently yield 1.8%. The record date for the most recent dividend was Jan. 17.)

I'm keeping my target price at $33 by October 2012. That would be a gain of 13.2% -- plus whatever dividend these shares pay. The Wall Street consensus calls for 17% earnings growth in 2012, which would put the forward price-to-earnings ratio on those projected earnings at 10 or so.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. The fund owned shares of US Bancorp as of the end of September. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here. 

Tags: USB
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