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Why Is Sallie Mae (SLM) Up 4.5% Since Last Earnings Report?

Zacks Equity Research

It has been about a month since the last earnings report for Sallie Mae (SLM). Shares have added about 4.5% in that time frame, outperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent positive trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is Sallie Mae due for a pullback? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at the most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important drivers.

Sallie Mae Q4 Earnings Top Estimates, Expenses Fall

Sallie Mae delivered fourth-quarter 2019 positive earnings surprise of 10%. Core earnings of 33 cents per share surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 30 cents. Moreover, the figure jumped 6.5% from the prior-year quarter.

Increase in net interest income and lower expenses were tailwinds. Also, improved deposits and loans balance supported the results. However, these positives were partially offset by lower non-interest income and poor credit quality.

The company’s GAAP net income attributable to common stock came in at $137 million compared with $143 million a year ago.

For 2019, core earnings of $1.27 per share grew 18.7% year over year, and also surpassed the consensus estimate of $1.23. Net income attributable common shareholders (GAAP basis) rose 18.9% to $561 million.

Net Interest Income Increases, Expenses Decline

Net interest income for the fourth quarter came in at $419 million, up 9.4% year over year. This improvement was mainly driven by higher interest income. Net interest margin contracted 70 basis points (bps) to 5.41%.

The company incurred non-interest loss of $4 million against non-interest income of $13 million in the prior-year quarter. This downfall mainly stemmed from losses on derivatives and hedging activities.

The company’s non-interest expenses declined 2.9% year over year to $141.7 million. The fall mainly resulted from lower other operating expenses, partially offset by higher compensation and benefits expenses.

Efficiency ratio, on a non-GAAP basis, decreased to 33.6% from 37.6%. Generally, a lower ratio indicates improved profitability.

Credit Quality Worsens

Provision for loan losses was $98 million, up 69% from $58 million witnessed in the prior-year quarter.

Delinquencies as a percentage of private education loans in repayment were 2.8%, up 2 bps.

Loans & Deposits Grow

As of Dec 31, 2019, deposits of Sallie Mae Bank were $24.3 billion, up from $22.6 billion as of Dec 31, 2019. Increase in retail and other, along with brokered deposits, contributed to this upside.

Private education loan portfolio was $22.9 billion, up marginally on a sequential basis. Average yield on the loan portfolio was 9.12%, down 22 bps.

Strong Capital Position & Capital Deployment Update

As of Dec 31, 2019, Sallie Mae Bank’s common equity Tier 1 capital was 12.2%, exceeding the “well capitalized” industry benchmark in regulatory requirements.

The company repurchased $9.6 million of common stock under share repurchase program at an average price of $8.73.

For 2020, Sallie Mae announced plans to buy back up to $600 million in common stock, under a new share repurchase program, effective immediately and to expire on Jan 21, 2022.

2020 Outlook

The company expects core earnings per share to be between $1.85 and $1.91. Also, provisions for credit losses in the range of $285-$305 million is expected. Total portfolio net charge-offs of $275-$285 million are anticipated for full-year 2020.

Private education loan originations are projected to grow 6% year over year. The company’s non-interest expenses are expected to fall in the $570-$580 million band. Further, loan sales of approximately $3 billion are targeted to fund up to $600 million of share repurchases.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

In the past month, investors have witnessed an upward trend in estimates review. The consensus estimate has shifted 149.26% due to these changes.

VGM Scores

Currently, Sallie Mae has a poor Growth Score of F, a grade with the same score on the momentum front. However, the stock was allocated a grade of C on the value side, putting it in the middle 20% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of F. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.


Estimates have been trending upward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions looks promising. It comes with little surprise Sallie Mae has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). We expect an above average return from the stock in the next few months.

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