Moments ago shots were fired when a (French) bank broke the unspoken Omerta code among sellside bankers: it downgraded another bank in a time when the S&P is just shy its all time highs (downgrading banks when the market is tumbling is usually a-ok). The note came from SocGen's Andrew Lim, whse thesis is rather simple: "Valuation too expensive in light of regulatory and revenue challenges."
From the note:
Initiation of coverage We initiate coverage of Goldman Sachs with a Sell rating and target price of $138. This is part of our Global Investment Banks initiation.
Key investment themes GS is a top-tier bank in primary and secondary capital markets business. However, with expectations of rising US 10-year yields, we fear the prospect of a credit bear market will pressure FICC trading revenues.
We see GS as already strong on B3 leverage (and B3 common equity). However, in endeavouring to maximise ROE by maximising share buybacks, we feel that management’s capital return policy is too aggressive and needs to be scaled back. Dividends and buybacks combined should account for just over 100% of earnings in 2013.
We see a risk of GS continuing to be impacted more than peers by regulations. The Volcker rule, while manageable for the bank, should nonetheless put pressure on revenues as it forces GS to scale back investments in covered funds. Meanwhile, we see the risk of market RWA inflation from the BCBS’s review of the trading book.
How we value the stock We use an SPFV approach to obtain a target price for GS of €138. We include on top of this the expected 12m forward DPS of $2.20, which results in a total shareholder return of -21%. Our full SPFV model is available on page 68 of our global investment banks initiation report. Looking at the valuation from another perspective, an ROE of only c.10% does not support a P/BV rating of over 1.0x in our view.
Risks to our target price and rating Pressure on the credit market may prove temporary rather than structural and longer term in nature as we model. On top of this, GS may be able to take much more market share from competitors than we estimate. GS may be able to reduce leverage and RWA considerably without hurting revenues. Management may be able to mitigate the impact of the Volcker rule with much less detriment to group ROE than we expect.
Sorry Andrew, no Goldman "elves" Christmas party invitation for you this year.