Our largest bank shares make up more than one-third of the local share market, measured by the market capitalisation of the largest 200 companies in the S&P/ASX 200 index.
If you really want to understand how to value a dividend share, like a bank or REIT, you should consider watching the tutorial video from the analyst team at Rask Australia.
Reversing the PE ratio for valuations
The ‘PE’ ratio 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. That means, the PE ratio is simply comparing share price to the most recent yearly 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 cheap 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 crucial to dig deeper than just looking at the PE ratio and thinking to yourself ‘if it’s below 10x, I’ll buy it.’
One of the easy 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 cheap 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 ($30.91), 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 38.4x. That compares to the banking sector average PE of 23x.
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 $18.69.
The stockbroker’s first valuation tool: the dividend model
Given that ASX bank shares like NAB tend to have a history of paying dividends — and they are relatively stable businesses like REITs or ETFs — we can use a modelling tool called a dividend discount model or DDM to do a valuation.
A DDM uses the dividends shareholders are ‘expected’ to receive to arrive at a valuation.
To make this DDM easy to understand, we will assume last year’s dividend payment ($0.60) rises at a fixed rate each year.
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 a blended rate for dividend growth and a risk rate between 6% and 11%, then got the average.
This simple DDM valuation of NAB shares is $11.44. However, using an ‘adjusted’ dividend payment of $1.23 per share, the valuation goes to $22.05. The expected dividend valuation compares to National Australia Bank Ltd’s share price of $30.91. 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 ($1.76), our valuation of the NAB share price prediction to $31.50.
Our two models could be used as an introductory guide for how the valuation process works. Analysing a bank share like National Australia Bank Ltd is a complicated task. If we were looking at the shares and considering an investment, we would first want to know more about the bank’s growth strategy. For example, are they pursuing more lending (i.e. interest income) or more non-interest income (fees from financial advice, investment management, etc..
Next, take a close look at economic indicators like unemployment, house prices and consumer sentiment. Where are they headed? Finally, we believe it’s important to make an assessment of the management team. For example, when we pulled data on NAB’s culture we found that it wasn’t a perfect 5/5. Culture is one thing to think carefully about.