Citizens Financial Group (CFG) didn’t even come close to matching the buzz or first-day returns of the much more highly touted Alibaba (BABA) IPO. A spinoff of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), CFG priced 140 million shares at $21.50 each — below its range of $23 to $25 — and it finished its day up just 7.5%.
CFG actually failed the U.S. government’s most recent stress tests, which in turns mean growth could be crimped as it tries to catch up and shore up its capital base.
Also, RBS still owns 75% of the company’s outstanding stock, and will have to unload that stake by the end of 2016 thanks to a requirement from the British government stemming from a £45 billion financial-crisis bailout. That’s a significant weight hanging over Citizens Financial’s shoulders.
Moreover, financial IPOs have been fairly lackluster. Consider returns such as …
Still, not all is negative when it comes to CFG stock.
Citizens Financial has 5 million retail customers, making it the 13th largest retail bank in the U.S. It boasts $130 billion in assets, and serves its customers via 1,200 branches across 11 states, mostly in New England and the mid-Atlantic.
Valuation looks attractive. At the current run rate, the firm should generate nearly $1 billion in profits for 2014, which would translate into a price-to-earnings ratio of 12 — compare that to 15 for JPMorgan (JPM) and 13 for Wells Fargo (WFC).
More importantly, the prospects for financials in general look particularly bright, as least for those based in the U.S.
For the most part, the economy continues to show signs of improvement, and we could see a huge catalyst in the form of higher interest rates. With higher yields, banks should benefit from increased profits thanks to juicier returns on new loans. This also will help to offset some of the headwinds of intense federal regulations, which have put pressure on fees.
But does that mean Citizens Financial is a good deal?
Maybe, and that’s eventually.
Weak demand for a new offering is an ominous sign, and Citizens Financial has an uphill climb while it needs to increase capital and while RBS needs to sell.
If you want to play the aforementioned rally in financials, your best bet is probably to stick with established players like Bank of America (BAC), JPM and WFC.
Because if nothing else, that’s where the institutional money will go when the industry shows strength again.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.