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3 SBIC & Commercial Finance Stocks From a Thriving Industry

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The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry will continue to bear the brunt of higher prepayments as interest rates rise. This is likely to hurt the industry players’ profitability to some extent.

However, high interest rates, favorable regulatory changes and steady demand for personalized financing solutions are expected to support industry players in the coming days. Solid asset quality continues to act as a major tailwind. Hence, a few industry names, like Ares Capital Corporation (ARCC - Free Report) , Golub Capital BDC, Inc. (GBDC - Free Report) and BlackRock TCP Capital Corp. (TCPC - Free Report) , are expected to gain from these favorable developments.

About the Industry

The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry comprises companies that provide finance to small and mid-sized privately held developing firms. These firms are typically underserved by traditional banks and other lenders. Additionally, firms suffering from financial distress are the primary target clients of these lenders. The industry players provide customized financing solutions, ranging from senior debt instruments to equity capital. This financing is provided for a change of ownership transactions, strategic buyouts, recapitalizations and growth initiatives in partnership with business owners, management teams and financial sponsors, among others. Some of the other products offered by the industry participants are mezzanine loans that typically pay high interest rates and could be converted into equity in the target firm.

3 Factors Shaping the Future of the SBIC & Commercial Finance Industry

High Rates: The Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates, with the rates currently at a 22-year high of 5.25-5.50%. Though the central bank has signaled the rate cuts in 2024, the interest rates are likely to be high. As the higher rates lead to a spike in prepayments and refinancing, this will keep benefiting SBIC & Commercial Finance industry players. The demand for products and services offered by these companies is likely to keep growing despite the challenging macroeconomic backdrop. Thus, the industry players are expected to witness a decent revenue improvement going forward.

Solid Asset Quality: Following the COVID-19 outbreak and a subsequent halt in business activities in 2020, the majority of sectors wherein SBIC & Commercial Finance companies provide loans were hit hard. This raised fears of a deterioration of asset quality for industry players. However, support from the administration in the form of stimulus packages, extensive vaccination drives and the re-opening of businesses supported economic growth and prevented a substantial rise in delinquency rates for the industry players. Even now, the industry players are not expected to witness much deterioration in credit quality, though high inflation and rates remain major near-term headwinds.

Regulatory Changes: In 2018, an amendment to the Investment Company Act of 1940 by the Small Business Credit Availability Act eased leverage limits for such companies, allowing them to increase their debt-to-equity leverage to 2:1 from 1:1. This helped these companies reduce portfolio risks by investing in higher capital structures without foregoing current returns. Thus, the act provided extra funding flexibility to these companies and will continue offering more growth opportunities.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bright Prospects

The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry is a 34-stock group within the broader Zacks Finance sector. The industry currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #23, which places it in the top 9% of more than 250 Zacks industries.

The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates outperformance in the near term. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s positioning in the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of an encouraging earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at aggregate earnings estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are gradually gaining confidence in this group’s bottom-line growth potential. Over the past year, the industry’s earnings estimates for the current year have been revised 9.3% upward.

Thus, we are presenting a few stocks that are well-positioned to outperform the market based on a strong earnings outlook. Before that, let’s check out the industry’s recent stock market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Outperforms the Sector and the S&P 500

The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry has outperformed both the S&P 500 composite and its sector over the past three years.

The stocks in this industry have collectively risen 27% over this period, while the Zacks S&P 500 composite and the Zacks Finance sector have rallied 26.7% and 22.1%, respectively.

Three-Year Price Performance


Industry's Current Valuation

One might get a good sense of the industry’s relative valuation by looking at its price-to-tangible book ratio (P/TBV), which is commonly used for valuing loan providers because of large variations in their earnings results from one quarter to the next.

The industry currently has a trailing 12-month P/TB of 0.91X. The highest level of 1.03X, the lowest of 0.41X and a median of 0.89X have been recorded by the industry over the past five years. Also, the industry is trading at a significant discount compared with the market at large, as evidenced by the trailing 12-month P/TB for the S&P 500 composite of 10.37X, as the chart below shows.

Price-to-Tangible Book Ratio (TTM)

As finance stocks typically have a low P/TB ratio, comparing SBIC & commercial loan providers with the S&P 500 may not make sense to many investors. However, comparing the group’s P/TB ratio with that of its broader sector ensures that the group is trading at a solid discount. The Zacks Finance sector’s trailing 12-month P/TB of 4.78X is also way above the Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry’s ratio, as the chart below shows.

Price-to-Tangible Book Ratio (TTM)


3 SBIC & Commercial Finance Stocks to Buy for 2024

Ares Capital: Headquartered in Maryland, CA, ARCC is a specialty finance company that primarily invests in U.S. middle-market companies (firms having annual earnings in the range of $10-$250 million). It offers customized financing solutions, ranging from senior debt instruments to equity capital, with a focus on senior secured debt.

Despite the tough macroeconomic scenario, Ares Capital is expected to continue witnessing the growing demand for customized financing from private equity firms and venture capitalists. Driven by the rise in the demand for customized financing and a robust deal pipeline, total new commitments are expected to keep increasing.

As of Sep 30, 2023, Ares Capital had debt of $11.5 billion, significantly higher than the cash and cash equivalents (including restricted cash) of $605 million. However, the company has a revolving credit facility, which, as of Sep 30, 2023, allows it to borrow up to $4.8 billion at any time.

The fair value of Ares Capital’s total investment portfolio was $21.9 billion as of Sep 30, 2023. Net asset value (NAV) was $18.99 per share on the same date.

Ares Capital has a market cap of $11.36 million. Shares of this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company have rallied 8.2% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2023 earnings implies year-over-year growth of 15.8%.

Price and Consensus: ARCC


Golub Capital BDC: This Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock makes investments mainly in one stop (a loan that combines the characteristics of traditional first lien senior secured loans and second lien or subordinated loans) and other senior secured loans of middle-market companies. Based in New York, the company invests roughly $10-$75 million of capital. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Following the acquisition of Golub Capital Investment Corporation in September 2019, Golub Capital became the fifth largest externally managed, publicly traded business development company in the United States in terms of assets. The deal continues to support the company’s financials.

As of Sep 30, 2023, Golub Capital had total investments (fair value) of $5.52 billion in 342 portfolio companies and NAV per share of $15.02. As of the same date, the company had cash, cash equivalents and foreign currencies of $69.8 million and restricted cash and cash equivalents of $70.4 million.

Further, at September 2023-end, GBDC had $3.1 billion in outstanding debt. Further, the company had $703.1 million of remaining availability in the aggregate on its revolving credit facility with JPMorgan and $100.0 million of remaining commitments and availability on its unsecured line of credit with GC Advisors.

The company’s shares have rallied 15.8% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings suggests 12.1% year-over-year growth for fiscal 2024. GBDC has a market cap of $2.56 billion.

Price and Consensus: GBDC


BlackRock TCP: This is a specialty finance company that is mainly focused on direct lending to middle-market companies and small businesses. Carrying a Zacks Rank #2, TCPC lends largely to companies with solid market positions, strong regional or national footprints, differentiated products and services and sustainable competitive advantages.

In September, TCPC announced a merger deal with BlackRock Capital Investment Corporation. Rajneesh Vig, the Chairman and CEO, said, “We believe the transaction positions the combined companies for sustained growth and would create meaningful value for shareholders, resulting from more efficient access to capital, the potential for improved trading dynamics, combined operating efficiencies, and a base management fee reduction in conjunction with a successful closing of the transaction.”

As of Sep 30, 2023, BlackRock TCP had total investments (fair value) of $1.6 billion (in 143 portfolio companies). Of the total investment value, 88.7% was senior secured debt. As of the same date, NAV was $12.72 per share.

BlackRock TCP, based in Santa Monica, CA, has been witnessing growth in total investment income over the last few years. The company is expected to continue witnessing a rise in investment income in the quarters ahead, given the regulatory changes and rising demand for customized financing. Also, its investment commitments to new and existing portfolio companies have been steadily rising.

As of Sep 30, 2023, TCPC had a debt of $9.7 billion and available liquidity of $352.9 million. At the end of the third quarter of 2023, the weighted average cost of debt outstanding was 4.24%.

BlackRock TCP has a market cap of $667.2 million. Over the year, the company’s shares have dropped 10.5%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2023 earnings indicates a 21.6% rise on a year-over-year basis.

Price and Consensus: TCPC


See More Zacks Research for These Tickers

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