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Bull of the Day: PrivateBancorp (PVTB)

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What industry benefits most from an expanding economy and rising interest rates? Banking, of course. And while the Financial sector has led the market for the past year, with Consumer Discretionary and Healthcare close behind, there are many opportunities still to be found in small and mid-size banks.

PrivateBancorp (PVTB) is the $1.6 billion holding company for The PrivateBank and Trust Company based in Chicago, IL. The PrivateBank provides commercial middle market banking services, as well as personal and private banking and wealth management.

PrivateBancorp has $13.5 billion in total assets and operates 36 offices in 10 states. Their focus on customized business and personal financial services to middlemarket companies, as well as affluent individuals, professionals, entrepreneurs, and their business interests, combines the attentiveness to wealthy clients of a big Wall Street bank with the personal touch of a smaller, local bank.

On July 18, PVTB offered up a 12% EPS surprise and analysts scrambled to raise estimates for this year and next, taking the 2013 consensus from $1.36 to $1.47 and 2014's from $1.45 to $1.54. Here's a graphic look at the earnings momentum that once again has put PVTB on the Zacks #1 Rank Strong Buy list...

(Click image to enlarge)

Loan Growth and Cross-Selling

PVTB completed its TARP repayment obligations last October and, according to analysts, is aggressively pursuing quality loan growth. With services that range across a spectrum of corporate and wealth needs, from treasury management and deposit services to capital markets and portfolio construction, PVTB is able to meet a wide array of client demands.

Fee-based revenues have increased 8.8% year-over-year and comprised 22% of 2Q revenues compared to 17% in 2008-2010. While EPS estimates between 2013 and 2014 have narrowed recently to only 4.7% growth ($1.47 to $1.54), one firm has recently introduced its 2015 estimate of $1.72 based on the steepening yield curve.

That profit acceleration into 2015, as short-term rates are expected to rise even faster, represents 11.7% year-over-year EPS growth. But it also seems to imply that analysts may be behind the curve for 2014 estimates. And that may simply be a function of uncertainty about how the yield curve will shift over the coming quarters.

Levered to Rising Rates

According to Raymond James analysts, "PrivateBancorp would be a prime beneficiary of an increase in rising short-term interest rates given the highly asset-sensitive nature of its balance sheet. Specifically, variable rate loans accounted for 94% of its loan portfolio as of June 30 with 63% indexed to one-month LIBOR."

On the valuation front, recent JPMorgan research reveals that PVTB trades at 1.6X tangible book value compared to the median for small and midcap banks of 1.8X. For 2013 EPS estimates, PVTB trades at 16X vs. 16.2X for the median of the group. And for 2014, PVTB trades right at the median of 15.4X.

This data is from their August 26 report when PVTB was trading $23.44. As of Tuesday's close of $21.99, PVTB is over 6% cheaper. And that makes all those valuation metrics that much more attractive.

So attractive, in fact, that when I saw the unreasonable sell-off in PVTB over the past 5 trading sessions since August 26, on below average volume, I had to add the stock to the Zacks Follow The Money Portfolio. I encourage you to see if it's the small bank, high-quality growth story for you too.

Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks where he runs the Follow The Money portfolio.

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