Getting a ballpark share price analyst price target for an ASX bank share like National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) is never a certainty. However, a thorough valuation can help you understand what’s going on under the hood.
Australia’s big banks make up around 20% of the share market, measured by market capitalisation and inclusion in the S&P/ASX 200 index.
It’s easy to see why ASX bank shares have been so popular since the early 1990s, when Australia experienced a recession and mortgage interest rates were over 15%!
One great thing about banks is that, for the most part, they are ‘implicitly’ protected from complete financial collapse or bankruptcy because a bank going out of business would be a political nightmare. In saying that, as we’ve seen recently, shareholder returns are never guaranteed.
Price-earnings sector valuation
The price-earnings ratio or ‘PER’ compares a company’s share price (P) to its most recent full-year earnings per share (E). Remember, ‘earnings’ is just another word for profit. Hence, the ‘P/E’ ratio is simply comparing share price to the most recent full-year profit of the company. Some experts will try to tell you that ‘the lower PE ratio is better’ because it means the share price is ‘low’ relative to the profits produced by the company. However, sometimes shares are good value for a reason!
Secondly, some extremely successful companies have gone for many years (a decade or more) and never reported an accounting profit — so the PE ratio wouldn’t have worked.
Therefore, we think it’s insightful to dig deeper than simply looking at the PE ratio and thinking to yourself ‘if it’s below 10x, I’ll buy it’.
One of the simple ratio models analysts use to value a bank share is to compare the PE ratio of the bank/share you’re looking at with its peer group or competitors and try to determine if the share is too much, or undervalued relative to the average. From there, and using the principle of mean reversion, we can multiply the profits/earnings per share by the sector average (E x sector PE) to reflect what an average company would be worth. It’s like saying, ‘if all of the other stocks are priced at ‘X’, this one should be too’.
If we take the NAB share price today ($27.89), together with the earnings (aka profits) per share data from its 2020 financial year ($0.805), we can calculate the company’s PE ratio to be 34.6x. That compares to the banking sector average PE of 24x.
Next, take the profits per share (EPS) ($0.805) and multiply it by the average PE ratio for NAB’s sector (Banking). This results in a ‘sector-adjusted’ PE valuation of $19.70.
Dividend models (a 101 walkthrough)
The dividend discount model or DDM is different from ratio valuation like PE because the model makes forecasts into the future, and uses dividends instead of profit. Because the banking sector has proven to be relatively stable with regards to share dividends, the DDM approach can be used. However, we would not use this model for, say, technology shares.
Basically, we need only one input into a DDM model: dividends per share. Then, we make some assumptions about the yearly improvement of the dividend (e.g. 2%) and the risk level of the dividend payment (e.g. 7%). We’ve used the most recent full year dividends (e.g. from last 12 months or LTM) then assumed the dividends remain consistent but grow slightly.
To make this DDM easy to understand, we will assume last year’s dividend payment ($0.60) rises at a consistent rate into the future at a fixed yearly rate.
Next, we pick the ‘risk’ rate or expected return rate. This is the rate at which we discount the future dividend payments back to today’s dollars. The higher the ‘risk’ rate, the lower the share price valuation.
We’ve used an average rate for dividend growth and a risk rate between 6% and 11%.
This simple DDM valuation of NAB shares is $11.44. However, using an ‘adjusted’ dividend payment of $1.12 per share, the valuation goes to $20.08. The expected dividend valuation compares to National Australia Bank Ltd’s share price of $27.89. Since the company’s dividends are fully franked, you might choose to make one further adjustment and do the valuation based on a ‘gross’ dividend payment. That is, the cash dividends plus the franking credits (available to eligible shareholders). Using the forecast gross dividend payment ($1.60), our valuation of the NAB share price forecast to $28.68.
It’s time for further research
It goes without saying that these two valuation strategies are only the starting point of the process for analysing and valuing a bank share like NAB. If we were looking at the shares and considering an investment, we’d want to know more about the bank’s growth strategy. Are the net interest margins holding up if they are pursuing more lending (i.e. interest income)? How are they dealing with regulation if they seek more non-interest income (fees from financial advice, investment management, etc.)?
Finally, it’s always important to make an assessment of the management team. For example, when we pulled data on National Australia Bank Ltd’s culture we found that it wasn’t a perfect 5/5. No company has a perfect culture, of course. However, culture is one thing we think about a lot when analysing companies to buy and hold over the very long-term (10+ years).