As part of our process, we perform a rigorous valuation methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In this article, we outline our valuation assessment of Citigroup (C). For some background, we think a comprehensive analysis of a firm's discounted cash-flow valuation (or residual income valuation in the case of banking firms), relative valuation versus industry peers, as well as an assessment of technical and momentum indicators is the best way to identify the most attractive stocks at the best time to buy. This process culminates in what we call our Valuentum Buying Index, which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Please click here to discover why a combined value-momentum strategy is superior to all other strategies, including value and growth alone.
If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis and is showing improvement in technical and momentum indicators, it scores high on our scale. Citigroup posts a VBI score of 4 on our scale (10 is best), reflecting its fairly valued nature on the basis of our residual-income valuation model, its attractive valuation on the basis of its price-to-tangible-book ratio vs. peers, and its bearish technicals. As is consistent with our stock-selection methodology, we prefer firms that have scores of 9 and 10, as it has been shown that a cohort of stocks with both attractive value and momentum qualities have great potential for outperformance.
Our Report on Citigroup
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Citigroup's average return on tangible equity during the past five years is about as bad as it gets. The bank has built up its capital ratios, but we're still expecting value-destruction in coming periods, as our fair value estimate falls below its current tangible book value. We don't find much to like about the company, as its low price-to-tangible-book ratio reflects some tough sledding in future periods.
We use a residual income model to derive our fair value estimates for banking firms. A bank's current tangible book value is first grossed up or down by the discounted value of its forecast annual net income less an annual capital charge (10% of tangible book value) during the next two years. We then use normalized earnings less the annual capital charge in our perpetuity function (discounted to present). The firm's fair value is then compared to its stock price. For banks, we use a standard 20% margin of safety to determine both the upper and lower bounds of our fair value range. If a bank is trading below (above) the lower bound of our fair value range, we consider it undervalued (overvalued). If its stock price falls within our fair value range, we think its shares are fairly valued. In Citigroup's case, we think the shares are worth $27 each, and the lower end of our fair value estimate range is $22 per share. By extension, we view Citigroup's shares as fairly valued on the basis of our residual income model.
We use price/tangible book as the primary measure to determine whether one bank is more attractive than another on a relative value basis. For banks in the top tier of our relative-value ranking, they receive a rating of attractive. Banks at the bottom tier receive an unattractive rating. Banks in the mid-tier receive a neutral rating. All banks receive a ValueRisk rating of high due to their inherent dependence on the capital markets. Citigroup is near the top of our relative-value ranking and earns a relative-value rating of attractive.
We rank banks by their respective return on tangible common equity (ROTE), which we define as diluted earnings per share divided by tangible book value per share. Firms that score in the top tier of our bank universe on this measure in their most recently-reported fiscal year receive a ValueCreation™ rating of excellent, while firms that score in the mid tier of our bank universe receive a ValueCreation™ rating of good. Firms that score in the bottom tier but still have a positive ROTE receive a poor rating, while firms with a negative ROTE receive a very poor ValueCreation™ rating. Citigroup receives a poor rating on this measure as its returns are mid-tier and fall below our 10% threshold we use for a bank's cost of equity.
Our bank ValueTrend™ rating compares the company's five-year average ROTE with its most recently-reported fiscal year ROTE. If a bank's most recently reported ROTE is greater than its five-year average, it receives a ValueTrend™ rating of positive. If a bank's most recently reported ROTE is less than its five-year average, it receives a ValueTrend™ rating of negative. Citigroup's measure is positive.
The Tier I capital ratio is a measure of the firm's Tier I capital (consisting largely of shareholders' equity and disclosed reserves) divided by the firm's risk-weighted assets. We rank banking firms based on this measure to show which banks have the greatest capital strength after considering the riskiness of their underlying assets.
Banks in the top tier earn a capital strength rating of excellent, while banks that do not fall in the top tier but still have a Tier I ratio above 10% earn a capital strength rating of good. Banks that have a Tier I ratio lower than 10% earn a rating of poor on our scale. This is a relative measure with absolute threshold considerations. Citigroup earns a capital strength rating of excellent.
All Things Considered
Even after its steep fall, we're not big fans of Citigroup and point to banks that score high on our Valuentum Buying Index as more attractive candidates for financials exposure.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.