Strong keep getting stronger: U.S. Bancorp momentum keeps building

It’s been a busy few weeks for U.S. Bancorp Chairman and CEO Richard Davis and his team. Good news seems to follow good news, and the momentum just keeps building.

On Oct. 21, the fifth-largest U.S.-based bank (by assets) reported third-quarter earnings, driven by acquisitions, with record total net revenue of $4.3 billion and total loan growth up more than 9 percent.

At the end of October, the Minneapolis bank added to its growth-oriented acquisition portfolio when it picked up an additional nine failed banks from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) by acquiring the banking subsidiaries of FBOP Corp. of Oak Park, Ill.

Then earlier this week, USB flexed its balance-sheet strength once again when it announced that it will opt out of the six-month extension of the Transaction Account Guarantee Program (TAGP).

The current program, which is in effect through Dec. 31, provides full insurance coverage from the FDIC on non-interest-bearing transactional accounts with balances of more than $250,000. Effective Jan. 1, FDIC insurance will be limited to $250,000 per transactional account.

“The decision to opt out of the extension of the TAGP is a reflection of U.S. Bancorp’s strong capital and liquidity position,” the company said in a prepared statement. “U.S. Bancorp previously announced the redemption of the $6.6 billion of preferred stock issued under the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program (TARP) and the repurchase of the 10-year warrant issued to the U.S. Treasury in conjunction with the TARP program, effectively concluding the company’s participation in TARP.”

Growth through acquisition of troubled banks is part of a strategy Davis reiterated in the Q3 earnings release when he touted the bank’s “continuing ability and desire to strengthen and expand our businesses by capitalizing on opportunities that present themselves during this downturn, positioning us to capture incremental growth as the domestic and global economies recover.”

The acquisitions are “not opportunistic in the sense they happen to fit with our long-term, well-articulated strategy,” said Richard C. Hartnack, vice chairman in charge of all consumer banking. “We look at our 24-state footprint and ask what markets do we have the opportunity to grow market share, earnings growth, client service,” he said. Key targets for the bank are Arizona, California, Nevada and the Chicago metropolitan area.

Driven in part by their growth and in part by competitors disappearing, U.S. Bancorp now ranks fifth nationally in terms mortgage origination, up from 22nd before the market downturn began two years ago, he added.

The recent deal adds another 113 branches in California, 32 in Illinois and two in Arizona. Before the acquisition, U.S. Bancorp operated 570 branch offices in California, 75 in Arizona and 127 in Illinois, according to news reports. The bank had already demonstrated an appetite for deals a year ago, when it picked up the deposits of a pair of California banks, PFF Bank & Trust and Downey Savings and Loan, that boasted a combined $12 billion in assets.

And the bank is getting positive reviews on Wall Street. Last July, Frederick Cannon — chief equity strategist at investment firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods, which specializes in financial institutions — put a spotlight on U.S. Bancorp’s growth opportunity. “Of the large-cap banks, we believe that USB is in the best position to roll up a large number of failed banks through FDIC-assisted deals,” Cannon wrote to clients.

Then in early October, Keefe Bruyette banking analyst David Konrad upgraded the stock to “outperform” from “market perform” and set a price target of $28, up from $21. And this week Sandler O’Neill analyst Scott Siefers upped his rating to a “buy” from a “hold,” citing the bank’s “safer capital profile” than its peers. In a note to clients, he called the bank “solidly profitable,” and “one of the best-managed banks in the country.”

U.S. Bancorp’s stock (NYSE:USB) has recovered from a March 6 low of $8.75 to close Wednesday at $23.07.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/05/2009 - 05:43 pm.

    In September of 2005 , US Bank Economist Tucker Hart Adams said “it’s not a question of if the U.S. economy slips into recession — it’s just a matter of when”.

    He went on to say: “Will (the recession) begin in 2006, or will we keep fooling ourselves, thinking we can spend more than we make and go further and further into debt? I don’t know.”

    With individuals like Mr Adams giving good advice and to have the board listening and acting upon the advice speaks volumes about the management team @ US Bancorp.

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