Lloyds Banking Group Special Situation investment – Management & Valuation

This is the follow up post to the first post on Lloyds Banking group 2 weeks ago.

By chance, I just saw this research note from Investec which perfectly sums up all the reasons why Lloyds is not a favourite of investors at the moment:

Bloomberg) — Lloyds cut from buy on concern about outcome of U.K. election, probability of a “raft of negative one-offs in 2015” and on U.K. govt plans to exit its 22% stake, Investec says in note.
Says Lloyds has “sensibly’’ signalled it will call all remaining Enhanced Capital Notes
That should speed-up negative fair value unwind of GBP0.7b
There could also be extra charge if Lloyds pays any premium
January PPI redress costs for bank industry rose to 14-month high of GBP424.5m
Planned sale of TSB to Sabadell means deconsolidation in 1Q, that could mean charge of GBP0.6b
Sees U.K. govt stake reduced to ~20% by end June, with sale of govt shares accelerated after that, acting as drag on stock
U.K. May 7 election poses risks to banks with uncertainties over macro economy, another bank levy increase, restrictions on use of residual tax losses
Lloyds less vulnerable than peers over regulatory/conduct issues and less exposed to bank levy than other FTSE 100 banks

For me, this is actually a good sign that a lot of the short-term bad news is on the table. But let#s look at the company now.

Just as a refresher, the quote from Warren Buffett which I used already when I looked at Handelsbanken:

The banking business is no favorite of ours. When assets are twenty times equity – a common ratio in this industry – mistakes that involve only a small portion of assets can destroy a major portion of equity. And mistakes have been the rule rather than the exception at many major banks. Most have resulted from a managerial failing that we described last year when discussing the “institutional imperative:” the tendency of executives to mindlessly imitate the behavior of their peers, no matter how foolish it may be to do so. In their lending, many bankers played follow-the-leader with lemming-like zeal; now they are experiencing a lemming-like fate.

Because leverage of 20:1 magnifies the effects of managerial strengths and weaknesses, we have no interest in purchasing shares of a poorly managed bank at a “cheap” price. Instead, our only interest is in buying into well-managed banks at fair prices.

Lloyd’s Management

So let’s look at Lloyds Management. The CEO, Portuguese António Horta Osório is considered to be one of the “best bankers” in the business. He was appointed in 2010 and lured away from Santander, where he build up Santander’s quite succesful UK subsidiary.

He became CEO in March 2011 but then something strange happened: He “disappeared” for around 6 weeks due to a “burn-out”. He cam eback however and actually did not take his bonus for that year.

But how can one determine if he is really a good manager? Well, a first step would be to look at videos and interviews. As an INSEAD alumni for instance a quite interesting inerview with him can be found when he still was in charge of Santander UK. There are a lot of speeches and interviews found on Youtube from him, for instance here or here. Despite his “slick” look, he comes across as a rather thoughtful person trying to restore some kind of trust into the banking industry.

But public appearance only is a part of management assessment. The more important aspect in my opinion is a very simple question: What does a CEO actually do and achieve compared to what he is promising. In Lloyd’s case, a few months after he started, the CEO presented a strategic plan which covered the years 2012-2014. The main features were:

– reducing cost by 1.5bn GBP with a target cost income ratio of 42-44%
– Statutory ROE of 12.5%-14,5%
– Core tier 1 equity ratio > 10%

If we look at the latest presentation from March, we can see the following “score card”:

– cost was reduced by 1.4bn, but cost income ratio was 50%.
– Tier 1 ratio 12,8% —> fully met
– Statutory ROE: not met, it wasn’t even mentioned

Overall, Orosio delivered on the cost side but failed to increase the “other income”. Additionally, he clearly underestimated all the PPI, Libor scandal fines etc. but this is outside of his control. One thing which annoys me a little bit that they basically dropped the ROE measure from their reporting. The are now reporting non-sensical numbers like “return on risk weighted assets” which IMO is a “BS number”. For a financial company, ROE in my opinion is “THE” measure of success in the long run and nothing else.

So overall, I would give “good” marks to Horosia. I do think he is a great “operator” and maybe one of the bank “cost cutters” in the industry, but maybe not the one to create a lot of new business opportunities.

If we compare Lloyds for with RBS which was more or less in the same situation, financial markets seem to think that Lloyds has done better:


As always, one has to make assumptions for any kind of valuation exercises. For banks, I like to keep it simple:

I Estimate a target P/B multiple, target ROE and target retention ratio to come up with a potential return calculation. In Lloyds case, I assume that 12% ROE is a reasonable target to be achieved within the next 4 years. Other than for Handelsbanken, I think that Lloyds can only reinvest 25% at those rates and will pay out 75% of earnings.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Book Value 65 66,3 6791% 6961% 71,5 73,7 75,9 78,2 80,5 82,9 85,4
ROE 8,0% 9% 10% 11% 12% 12% 12% 12% 12% 12% 12%
EPS 5,2 6,46 6,79 7,66 8,58 8,84 9,11 9,38 9,66 9,95 10,25
Implicit P/E 80,76923077 13,0 11,7 10,6 12,5 12,5 12,5 12,5 12,5 12,5 12,5
Retention ratio 25% 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25 0,25
Dividend   4,8 5,1 5,7 6,4 6,6 6,8 7,0 7,2 7,5 7,7
Target Price   84,0 79,5 81,4 107,3 110,5 113,8 117,2 120,8 124,4 128,1
NPV CFs 10 Y -79 4,8 5,1 5,7 6,4 6,6 6,8 7,0 7,2 7,5 135,8
NPV -79 4,8 5,1 5,7 113,7            
IRR 10 year 11,5%                    
IRR 4 year 14,1%                    
Div. Yield   5,77% 6,41% 7,05% 6,00% 6,00% 6,00% 6,00% 6,00% 6,00% 6,00%

If my assumptions would turn out to be correct, over a 10 year period, Lloyds would return around 11% p.a. Not bad but worse than Handelsbanken. Selling after 4 years however would lead to a return of 14% which I find quite Ok. The difference comes from teh fact that I assume relatively low “compounding” which I think is realistic.

Other considerations

What I do like about the risk/return profile is the fact that there is a kind of “soft put” at 0,736 GBP. This seems to be the break-even of the UK Government. I assume that if the price would move below that, they will lower their sales volume or stop sales altogether as they want to show a “profit”, which should support the stock price at that level.

I think there could also be an interesting effect with regard to index weights. I am not sure how often index providers refresh their weights for instance for the Footsie, but there is most likely a time lag between the UK government selling and the index providers adjusting the weight. I know that for instance the DAX is only reweighted once a year which would then, in the caso of LLoyds would suddenly increase the amount to be bought by the index funds.


Summing up the two posts, I would look at Lloyds the following way:

+ Lloyds look like solid UK bank which has cleaned up its portfolio and will return respectable returns going forward
+ The bank is run by a good operator which will decrease costs further
+ The UK Governemnet selling down and overall negative sentiment towards UK banking could explain an undervalutation of the stock
+ fundamentally I find UK banking attractive as there is significant concentration and interest rates are still high enough to make money
+ profits and dividends will improve significantly over the next 2-3 years
+ Threat of new entrants lower than for the other large peers due to low costs
– there is not a lot of growth potential in the stock as the market share is so high already
– short term nagative surprises/charges possible

In its current form, Lloyds is clearly not a growth/compounding story but rather a 3-4 year “special situation”. It similar to my 2 other “forced IPO” or “forced sales” investments Citizen’s and NN Group.

So overall, I find it a quite attractive special situation. Banks in general are one of the last truly “cheap” sectors and I do think that Lloyds has most of its problems behind it, especially compared to its large UK peers. So despite the relatively high valuation, I do think Lloyds is one of the most interesting situations with large UK and European banks at the moment.

Due to my position limitation however, this will get on the “queue” for the time being and decide by the end of the month if to buy, unless the price woul ddrop significantly. My buying limit would be around 79-80 pence/share.


  • bought a few more Lloyds shares today at 0,655 GPB (0,5% increase of position)

  • Reading about HSBC and Standard Chartered thinking to leave London I got curious how you might like them, especially Standard Chartered.
    – Banking is a branch you like to analyze
    – SC seems to be concentrated in wholesale and retail banking, at least that is my impression
    – Main activity and 90% of profits in Asia, Africa and Middle East – might suit well for your “emerging countries pocket”
    – Their valuation seems quite fair: price-book value ratio ~ 0,9, PER 2013 ~ 10 (for 2014 much worse), dividend yield ~ 5%.
    – They think about leaving London and switching to Singapur – an opportunity for standard chartered or more a risk?

    Do you have an opinion about them?

    (HSBC`s thoughts about switchin to Hongkong sounded less intriguing for me.)

    • Roger,

      i have looked at StanChart but it is on the “too hard” side for me. I am not comfortable with their credit risk. I think Lloyds is a lot less risky.


      • Ah, thats fine. 🙂
        I asked you, because the first look was attractive, but like almost all financial institutions it is on the “much too hard” pile for me.

  • The FTSE indices are rebalanced quarterly as far as I know. The UK gov soft put is also a soft call, in that their selling may cap the price until they’re done with it.

    On cost cutting, it would be nice to have hints on the quality. Any idiot can fire half the staff, but a good cost cutting programme will do more clever things (replace antiquated systems, close down dead end lines, etc) and have more interesting results. A proxy I use for such things is checking what the troops say on glassdoor.com, and recent reviews seem pretty positive there (for a large bank under restructuring).

    • thanks for the comment. I agree, but the “soft short call” is something I am happy to sell and receive the premium as I think this is fully priced in.

      One thing I didn’t mention in the post: Lloyds did abolish sales targets last year for branch staff which I think is very positive as well.

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