The original post - like this blog at the time - probably had less than 20 readers.
I have repeat the post below.
Warren Buffett once said that Fannie Mae had more supercatastrophe risk in it than Berkshire Hathaway. He figured the really really big hurricane or earthquake could do more damage to Fannie than Berkshire even though Berkshire is the largest supercat insurer in the world.
Buffett was - I suspect - right.
We now unfortunately have a gruesome test of Buffett statement on finance and supercatastrophe. There is probably more uninsured damage in the destruction of North East Japan than in any other event in history - and uninsured damage falls sharply on banks.
77 Bank - deeply concentrated in the disaster zone - is the test. It is not a test I would want to repeat. But I think we will - at the end of this - be able to confirm Buffett's observation that banks don't like supercats.
The original post - which was titled Japanese Regional Banks - a mirror on America
77 Bank is a regional bank in
The name 77 Bank harks to tradition. During the Meiji restoration the Emperor gave out numbered bank charters. Traditional regional banks still label themselves by the number. www.77.co.jp and many other numbered sites belong to banks.
77 Bank has a very large market share (near 50%) in
Here is its balance sheet:
(click for a more detailed view).
Note that it has USD42.6 billion in deposits. This compares to $35.8 billion for Zions Bancorp – as close to an American equivalent as I can find.
77 only has USD26.4 billion in loans though. If you take out the low margin quasi-government loans it probably has only USD20 billion in loans.
This bank seems to be very good at taking deposits – but can’t seem to lend money.
This is typical in regional
So – guess what. It sits there – just sits – with huge yen securities (yields of about 50bps) doing nothing much.
It’s a big bank. It has next to no loan losses because it has no lending.
Here is an income statement:
(click for a more detailed view)
Profits were USD87 million on shareholder equity of 3251 million. You don’t need a calculator – that is a lousy return on equity for a bank without credit losses.
You might think that given that they have no profitability and no lending potential they might be returning cash to shareholders. Obviously you are new to
In a world where banks everywhere are short of capital 77 bank is swimming in it. Here is the graph of capital ratios over time:
This bank has an embarrassment of riches – and nothing to do with them.
Welcome to regional
An American Mirror
The title of this post was “An American Mirror”. And so far I have not mentioned
There are also mirror image lands – 77 is our mirror image.
Macroeconomic investing calls
We live in a world with considerable excess (mostly Asian) savings. Banks with access to borrowers made good margins because the borrowers were in short supply. Savers (or banks with access to savers) were willing to fund aggressive Western lenders on low spreads.
77 Bank has been the recipient of those low spreads. It has not been a fun place for shareholders as the sub 3% return on equity attests.
The economics of 77 Bank (and many like it) will change if the world becomes short on savings. There is NO evidence that that is happening now – and so 77 Bank will probably remain a lousy place for shareholders.
The market produces what the market wants
This is an aside really. We live in a world with an excess of savings. This is equivalent to saying that we live in a world with a shortage of (credit) worthy borrowers. So we started lending to unworthy borrowers – what Charlie Munger described as the “unworthy poor [whoever they might be] and the overstretched rich”. We know how that ended.
Unfortunately the financial system cannot make worthy borrowers. It can only lend to them when it can identify them.
This Subprime meltdown heralds the death (for now) of lending to the unworthy. The shortage of the worthy however is as acute as ever – and money for the worthy is still very cheap.
The subprime meltdown does not solve 77’s problems.