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As a small-cap bank stock with a market capitalisation of €57m, Attica Bank S.A.’s (ATH:TATT) risk and profitability are largely determined by the underlying economic growth of the GR regions in which it operates. A bank’s cash flow is directly impacted by economic growth as it is the main driver of deposit levels and demand for loans which it profits from. Post-GFC recovery brought about a new set of reforms, Basel III, which was created to improve regulation, supervision and risk management in the financial services industry. These reforms target bank level regulation and aims to improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from economic stress which could expose financial institutions to vulnerabilities. Since its financial standing can unexpectedly decline in the case of an adverse macro event such as political instability, it is important to understand how prudent the bank is at managing its risk levels. Strong management of leverage and liquidity could place the bank in a protected position at the face of macro headwinds. We can gauge Attica Bank’s risk-taking behaviour by analysing three metrics for leverage and liquidity which I will take you through now.
Why Does TATT’s Leverage Matter?
A low level of leverage subjects a bank to less risk and enhances its ability to pay back its debtors. Leverage can be thought of as the amount of assets a bank owns relative to its shareholders’ funds. Financial institutions are required to have a certain level of buffer to meet capital adequacy levels. Attica Bank’s leverage level of 5.86x is very safe and substantially below the maximum limit of 20x. This means the bank exhibits very strong leverage management and is well-positioned to repay its debtors in the case of any adverse events since it has an appropriately high level of equity relative to the debt it has taken on to remain in business. If the bank needs to increase its debt levels to firm up its capital cushion, there is plenty of headroom to do so without deteriorating its financial position.
How Should We Measure TATT’s Liquidity?
As I eluded to above, loans are relatively illiquid. It’s helpful to understand how much of this illiquid asset makes up the bank’s total asset. Usually, they should not be higher than 70% of total assets, which is consistent with Attica Bank’s state given its ratio of 59%. This means slightly over half of the bank’s total assets are tied up in the form of illiquid loans, leading to a sensible balance between interest income and liquidity.
Does TATT Have Liquidity Mismatch?
Banks operate by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge a higher interest rate. Loans are generally fixed term which means they cannot be readily realized, conversely, on the liability side, customer deposits must be paid in very short notice and on-demand. This mismatch between illiquid loans and liquid deposits poses a risk for the bank if unusual events occur and requires it to immediately repay its depositors. Since Attica Bank’s loan to deposit ratio of 73% is within the sensible margin, below than the appropriate maximum of 90%, this level places the bank in a relatively safe liquidity position given it has not excessively lent out its deposits and has maintained a suitable level for compliance.
Attica Bank ticks all the boxes for operational prudency in terms of liquidity and leverage. Investors often sideline these factors compared to other fundamentals, but they are equally important to consider as part of the investment thesis. High liquidity and low leverage places the bank in an ideal position to repay financial liabilities in case of adverse headwinds. Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. I’ve put together three key factors you should further examine:
Historical Performance: What has TATT’s returns been like over the past? Go into more detail in the past track record analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of our analysis for more clarity.
Management Team: An experienced management team on the helm increases our confidence in the business – take a look at who sits on Attica Bank’s board and the CEO’s back ground.
Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
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