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Prospects Look Bleak for SBIC & Commercial Finance Industry

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The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry consists of companies that provide finance to small and mid-sized privately held developing firms, which are generally underserved by traditional banks and other lenders. Firms suffering from financial distress are the primary target clients of these lenders.

Products offered by the companies also include mezzanine loans that typically pay high interest rates and could be converted into equity in the target firm.

Here are the three major themes in the industry:

  • Continued growth in domestic economy is expected to boost demand for small business loans. However, lower interest rates are likely to hurt SBIC & commercial finance stocks as it will result in a decline in investment income. Also, owing to lower rates, prepayments and refinancing are expected to rise, which may hamper profitability to some extent.
  • Regulatory changes are likely to work in favor of SBIC & commercial finance stocks. Last year, an amendment in the Investment Company Act of 1940 by the Small Business Credit Availability Act eased the leverage limits for such companies, allowing them to increase their debt-to-equity leverage to 2:1 from 1:1 (subject to board/shareholders approval). This willhelp these companies to reduce portfolio risk by investing in higher capital structures without foregoing current returns. In other words, the act has provided extra funding flexibility to these companies and will continue to offer more growth opportunities.
  • SBIC & commercial finance companies are structured in such a way that they are required to pay nearly nothing in terms of corporate income taxes. Instead, these companies pay out nearly 90% of their annual investment income and capital gains to shareholders as dividends.


Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Dismal Prospects

The Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry is a 37-stock group within the broader Zacks Finance sector. The industry currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #159, which places it at the bottom 38% 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 underperformance in the near term. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s positioning in the bottom 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of disappointing earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at the aggregate earnings estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are gradually losing confidence in this group’s earnings growth potential. Since November 2018 end, the industry’s earnings estimates for the current year have been revised slightly downward.

Despite this dismal picture for the nearterm, we are present a few stocks that are well positioned to outperform the market based on a strong earnings outlook. Before doing this, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Underperforms Sector and S&P 500

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

While the stocks in this industry have collectively lost 7.2% over this period, the Zacks S&P 500 composite has rallied 17%. Nonetheless, the Zacks Finance sector has declined 0.4%.

Two-Year Price Performance

Industry’s 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/TBV of 1.10X. This compares to the highest level of 1.12X, lowest level of 0.70X and median of 0.96X over the past five years. Additionally, the industry is trading at a significant discount when compared to the market at large, as the trailing 12-month P/TBV for the S&P 500 composite is 11.36X, as the chart below shows.

Price-to-Tangible Book Ratio (TTM)

As finance stocks typically have a low P/TBV ratio, comparing SBIC & commercial loan providers with the S&P 500 may not make sense to many investors. But a comparison of the group’s P/TBV ratio with that of its broader sector ensures that the group is trading at a decent discount. The Zacks Finance sector’s trailing 12-month P/TBV of 3.79X is way above the Zacks SBIC & Commercial Finance industry’s ratio, as the chart below shows.

Price-to-Tangible Book Ratio (TTM)


Bottom Line

While regulatory changes and growing economy will support the industry in the near term, lower interest rates are likely to hamper SBIC & commercial finance stocks’ investment income to some extent.

However, investing in this space could be rewarding.One should particularly consider betting on the SBIC & commercial finance stocks that depict an upbeat earnings outlook.

We are presenting one stock with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and two with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) that investors may consider betting on.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Newtek Business Services Corp. NEWT: The stock of Lake Success, NY-based company has rallied 10.1% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 earnings has been revised 13.3% upward over the past 60 days. The stock sports a Zacks Rank 1.

Price and Consensus: NEWT

Gladstone Investment Corporation GAIN: The stock of this McLean, VA-based company has gained 8.8% over the past year. The consensus estimate for 2019 earnings has been revised 1.2% upward over the past 60 days. The stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Price and Consensus: GAIN

TriplePoint Venture Growth BDC Corp. (TPVG - Free Report) : The consensus estimate for this Menlo Park, CA-based company has moved 2.5% upward for 2019 earnings, over the past 60 days. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has rallied 22.5% over the past year.

Price and Consensus: TPVG


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