14 Banks May Need Capital When Stress Test Results Release May 7

Treasury and the Fed are finalizing debates with US banks over stress tests that will reveal their capital adequacy when results are announced Thursday, May 7. Up to 14 of the 19 largest US banks—including Goldman, GMAC, MetLife, Fifth Third, and Regions—may need to raise common equity in the event the recession worsens. This according to former bank examiner and Friedman Billing Ramsey analyst Paul Miller. The banks being stress tested hold two-thirds of the assets and more than one-half of the loans in the U.S. banking system. More on Miller’s findings are excerpted below from a Bloomberg report:

Miller, a former bank examiner, said his estimate assumes regulators will require banks to maintain tangible common equity, one of the most conservative measures of capital, equal to 4 percent of their risk-weighted assets over the next two years.

Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and the 16 other banks received preliminary results last week and have been debating the findings with regulators. Officials favor tangible common equity of about 4 percent of a bank’s assets and so-called Tier 1 capital worth about 6 percent, people familiar with the tests say. Tangible common equity, or TCE, is a gauge of financial strength that excludes intangibles such as trademarks that can’t be used to make payments. Tier 1 capital is a broader measure monitored by regulators.

“When you start talking about 4 percent on risk-weighted assets based on the stress test two years out, most banks will be required to raise more capital,” Miller said in an interview yesterday. “I believe it will be as high as 14.” He declined to name them.

Citigroup, which has already taken $45 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to shore up its finances, may need to raise as much as $10 billion in new capital, the Wall Street Journal reported today, citing people familiar with the matter.

Miller’s views aren’t shared by all of his peers. David Trone, who covers 13 of the 19 lenders at Fox-Pitt Kelton Cochran Caronia Waller in New York, said his math shows that only four of the banks he focuses on will need more capital because of the stress test. Trone’s team upgraded the U.S. banks to “marketweight” from “underweight” this week.

The four are Regions Financial Corp., SunTrust Banks Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., Trone said. He estimates that PNC Financial needs $1.9 billion, Regions Financial requires $1 billion and Wells Fargo has to line up $1.5 billion. SunTrust needs $400 million, he said.

Miller and his team expect the banks will be encouraged to convert preferred stock held by private investors into common stock before converting preferred stock purchased by the government as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

By contrast, Trone said he doesn’t think the government should encourage the banks to exchange privately owned preferred stock and dilute common shareholders in anticipation of potential future losses.

Instead he said the government should help the banks that may need more common equity by converting the government’s preferred stock into a new class of so-called convertible preferred securities, which could be turned into common stock as required.