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New York Mortgage Trust (NASDAQ:NYMT): A Sterne Agee analyst estimates $1.70 for core EPS in 2012. NYMT is currently selling at a discount to tangible book value with a 15% yeild and 3.97x next year's Sterne Agee earnings per share estimate.

A long position in New York Mortgage Trust (NYMT) makes a great hedge for investors seeking to benefit from the high yields of mortgage REITs. Unlike other mortgage REITs, NYMT is asset sensitive. This is because a large tranche of NYMT’s portfolio is in LIBOR-adjusting business loans, which yield more as rates increase. The REIT now pays a 15% yield, but as interest rates rise, company earnings should follow. REITs like Annaly (NLY), Capstead Mortgage (CMO), MFA Financial (MFA) and Anworth (ANH) should drop in price as rates rise since their spreads will be compressed.

Here is an excerpt from Jason Weaver and Henry Coffey at Sterne Agee putting next year's core EPS at $1.70:

Strong ROE Acceleration in 3Q - Raising Estimates

We see the Midway portfolio’s performance as outstanding in the current quarter yet expect forward contributions to be somewhat more modest. In addition, the RiverBanc venture, though highly dependent on asset growth, should become much more apparent in coming periods.

NYMT reported estimated operating EPS of $0.49 v both last quarter and our estimate of $0.14. Earnings growth was driven both by increases in realized spread income from the Midway Residential portfolio as well as growing contributions from the RiverBanc commercial venture. Including both realized and unrealized gains, GAAP EPS was $-0- due mostly to the effect of rising credit spreads on the company’s CLO investment yet underlying fundamentals remain strong. We are raising our FY11 and FY 12 estimes from $.91 and $.75 cents to $1.07 and $1.70 respectively.

(Sterne Agee research November 15th 2011)

NYMT possesses top-quality credit expertise in commercial and residential real estate, and exploits this expertise to its advantage. Jim Fowler, Chairman of the Board, has a long resume covering mortgage investing, mortgage trading, and private and public equity research. His career has taken him through JMP Securities, Thomas Weisel, Montgomery Securities and Oppenheimer.

In the early 2000s, he was a regular on the Wall Street Journal’s annual “Best on the Street” Analyst Survey, culminating in 2003 when he achieved the #1 Ranking for Real Estate Analysts on Wall Street. Steve Mumma, CEO, has additional depth in the real estate markets with Natexis, Credit Agricole, Paine Webber and Citibank. Together with their employees, Jim and Steve possess some of the best real estate credit expertise in the business. Jim has been very proactive keeping credit costs low while striving for growth in the portfolio.

With deep expertise, NYMT is in a unique position to exploit the opportunities presented in the credit markets, earning excellent risk-adjusted returns. Furthermore, the company is flying under the radar. It’s too small to draw attention from most Wall Street firms, having little coverage or following. Case in point - the last quarterly earnings call only lasted about 15 minutes because there were only two questions from the “audience.” Nobody was on the call because nobody follows this stock.

So what is in the secret sauce at NYMT? As loans mature, new investments are being made in senior tranches of heavily collateralized loans. It uses little leverage so the loans are very safe under most any realistic forward scenario. Loan-to-value ratios are well less than 50%, but with risk-adjusted ROEs of 15% to 20%. On the residential side, NYMT has a strategic relationship with the Midway Group. Midway has best-in-class expertise in residential mortgages and IOs. Risk adjusted returns have been in the low 20% range for these investments and should continue at these levels. On the commercial side, NYMT has a strategic relationship with Riverbanc LLC. Riverbanc has deep expertise in commercial real estate loans, focusing on mezzanine loans and private equity. Returns in the mid-to-high teens are expected here.

NYMT still employs a small amount of leverage, but with interest rate risk hedged on many investments that will actually improve performance as rates increase. This is key. As economic conditions improve, and rates rise, the performance of these loans will actually improve as well. In contrast, REITs such as Annaly (NLY), Chimeras (CIM), American Capital (AGNC) and Cypress (CYS) are highly dependent on leverage.

But high leverage means high interest rate risk. They borrow at short-term rates, invest at longer-term rates and then leverage the spread four to eight times to generate a high yield. Look back to 2005 and you will see what happens when this strategy backfires. In the second half of 2005, Annaly (NLY) lost almost half of its value (dropping from 20 to 11) in less than six months when the yield curve flattened and spreads compressed. If long rates go up significantly and the yield curve flattens then look out below! At an absolute minimum, investors in leveraged REITs should consider diversifying into NYMT as a hedge to the significant interest rate risk they are taking in the leveraged REIT.

At $6.75/share, NYMT sells at a 8% discount to our intra-quarter estimate of current GAAP Book Value of $7.29. But GAAP BV is conservatively calculated due to the valuation of its Cratos portfolio. These loans were purchased in the midst of the financial crisis at $.20 on the dollar. It recently sold a portion of this portfolio (booking a large gain) but it retains more than half of the original portfolio, with a carrying book value significantly less than par. As this block of loans approaches maturity, the discounts should grade to zero and the valuations rise. This could create the need for several special dividends from the company to shareholders. Therefore realistic economic book value is much higher than current GAAP BV. It is our opinion that real tangible book value may be above $9 per share. The moves up in this portfolio of loans has increased NYMT’s book value. The recent history is as follows:

Date

BV/Share

12/07

3.20

12/08

4.21

12/09

6.69

(our estimate on 12/11/2011)

7.29

In short, NYMT represents one of the true “Ben Graham stocks” available in the market today. Not only can you buy it at less than fair value, but you get paid handsomely (through the sizable dividend) to wait for it to achieve fair value.

NYMT is closely tied to JMP Securities. The management team and new business strategy essentially comes from JMP. JMP owns a large percentage of NYMT through the investment advisory arm Harvest Capital.

Individuals at JMP and NYMT also have large stakes. Given this, management’s interests are completely and totally aligned with shareholders. Unlike many companies, we believe the management team isn’t there because they need their jobs. They are at NYMT solely to create and build value. If tomorrow they found the marketplace didn’t offer value in their arena, it is our belief that they would shut down the company, sell off the loan portfolios (realizing large gains) and distribute cash well in excess of current book value to the shareholders.

NYMT presents an exceptional opportunity and value for investors. In a low interest rate environment, it offers an outstanding current yield, with additional potential upside in price movement and further yield increase as interest rates rise. This under-followed “Ben Graham stock” offers relative safety under most any realistic forward scenario. A long position in NYMT can be used to hedge a typical mortgage REIT portfolio while most likely benefiting from upside in the dividend and price of the stock.

Disclaimer: This article contains forward looking statements which should not be misconstrued as assurances of gains.

Source: Undiscovered 18% Yield Potential At New York Mortgage Trust