As a small-cap bank stock with a market capitalisation of US$255m, Ames National Corporation’s (NASDAQ:ATLO) risk and profitability are largely determined by the underlying economic growth of the US regions in which it operates. Since a bank profits from reinvesting its clients’ deposits in the form of loans, negative economic growth may lower deposit levels and demand for loan, adversely impacting its cash flow. 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. Basel III target banking regulations to improve the sector’s ability to absorb shocks resulting from economic stress which may expose financial institutions like Ames National 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. Low levels of leverage coupled with sufficient liquidity may place Ames National in a safe position in the face of adverse headwinds. We can measure this risk exposure by analysing three metrics for leverage and liquidity which I will take you through today.
Is ATLO’s Leverage Level Appropriate?
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. Ames National’s leverage level of 8.11x 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 firm up its capital cushion, it has ample headroom to increase its debt level without deteriorating its financial position.
What Is ATLO’s Level of Liquidity?
As abovementioned, loans are quite illiquid so it is important to understand how much of these loans make up the bank’s total assets. Generally, they should make up less than 70% of total assets, which is the case for Ames National’s ratio at 57%. This is a reasonable ratio and suggests that slightly over half of the bank’s total assets are tied up in the form of illiquid loans, striking an appropriate balance between liquidity and interest income.
Does ATLO Have Liquidity Mismatch?
ATLO profits by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge an interest on the principle. These loans tend to be fixed term which means they cannot be readily realized, however, customer deposits are liabilities which must be repaid on-demand and in short notice. 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. Compared to the appropriate industry loan to deposit level of 90%, Ames National’s ratio of over 68% is noticeably lower, which means the bank is lending out less than its total level of deposits and positions the bank cautiously in terms of liquidity as it has not disproportionately lent out its deposits and has retained an apt level of deposits. There is opportunity for the bank to increase its interest income by lending out more loans.
Ames National ticks all the boxes for operational prudency in terms of liquidity and leverage. These factors often sideline next to other fundamentals but 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. Below, I’ve compiled three pertinent factors you should look at:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ATLO’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ATLO’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is ATLO worth today? Has the future growth potential already been factored into the price? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether ATLO is currently mispriced by the market.
- 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.
To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.