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Understated Factors To Consider Before Investing In First US Bancshares Inc (NASDAQ:FUSB)

First US Bancshares Inc’s (NASDAQ:FUSB) profitability and risk are largely affected by the underlying economic growth for the region it operates in US given it is a small-cap stock with a market capitalisation of US$63m. Since banks make money by reinvesting its customers’ deposits in the form of loans, strong economic growth will drive the level of savings deposits and demand for loans, directly impacting the cash flows of those banks. 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. Unpredictable macro events such as political instability could weaken its financial position which is why it is important to understand how well the bank manages its risk levels. Low levels of leverage coupled with sufficient liquidity may place First US Bancshares 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.

See our latest analysis for First US Bancshares

NasdaqCM:FUSB Historical Debt October 16th 18

Why Does FUSB’s Leverage Matter?

Banks with low leverage are exposed to lower risks around their ability to repay debt. A bank’s leverage can be thought of as the amount of assets it holds compared to its own shareholders’ funds. While financial companies will always have some leverage for a sufficient capital buffer, First US Bancshares’s leverage ratio of less than the suitable maximum level of 20x, at 8.38x, is considered to be very cautious and prudent. This means the bank has a sensibly high level of equity compared to the level of debt it has taken on to maintain operations which places it in a strong position to pay back its debt in unforeseen circumstances. Should the bank need to increase its debt levels to meet capital requirements, it will have abundant headroom to do so.

How Should We Measure FUSB’s Liquidity?

Handing Money Transparent

Since loans are relatively illiquid, we should know how much of the bank’s total assets are comprised of these loans. Normally, they should not exceed 70% of total assets, consistent with First US Bancshares’s case with a ratio of 56%. 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.

What is FUSB’s Liquidity Discrepancy?

FUSB 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, yet customer deposits on the liability side must be paid on-demand and in short notice. The disparity between the immediacy of deposits compared to the illiquid nature of loans puts pressure on the bank’s financial position if an adverse event requires the bank to repay its depositors. Compared to the appropriate industry loan to deposit level of 90%, First US Bancshares’s ratio of over 67% 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.

Next Steps:

First US Bancshares 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. The bank’s favourable liquidity and leverage position exposes it to less risk when it comes to repaying financial obligations, in particular, in the case of an adverse macro event. Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. I’ve put together three key aspects you should further examine:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for FUSB’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for FUSB’s outlook.
  2. Historical Performance: What has FUSB’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.
  3. 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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com.