9 Critical Numbers About SunTrust Banks

Given that you clicked on this article, it seems safe to assume you either own shares of SunTrust Banks (NYSE: STI  ) or are considering buying them in the near future. If so, then you've come to the right place. The table below reveals the nine most critical numbers that investors need to know about SunTrust before deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold its stock.

But before getting to that, a brief introduction is in order. Tracing its roots back to 1891, SunTrust has since transformed into one of the nation's largest regional banks. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, it operates more than 1,600 branches across eight states and the District of Columbia. As of the end of 2012, it had $173 billion of assets on its balance sheet, ranking it in size between North Carolina's BB&T Bank at $184 billion and Ohio's Fifth Third Bancorp at $122 billion.

As you can see in the table above, from a shareholder's perspective, SunTrust exhibits a number of strengths. Its comparatively low non-performing loans ratio suggests that it's above average in terms of minimizing credit risk -- though, its performance in this regard both before and during the financial crisis left a lot to be desired and contributed to the subsequent abysmal performance of its shares. In addition, the bank's considerable non-interest income goes a long way toward hedging against low interest rate environments like the present. It's largely for these reasons, in turn, that SunTrust's return on equity is roughly 150 basis points better than the average.

Alternatively, SunTrust's biggest weakness are its below-average net interest margin and its negligible dividend payout ratio. Its net interest margin of 3.4% comes in a full 30 basis points lower than the industry average. And its 6% payout ratio is lamentable, to put it mildly. The good news on the latter front is that the bank was recently approved for a dividend increase by the Federal Reserve. Its quarterly payout will double from $0.05 today to $0.10 beginning in the second quarter of this year. As the company's chairman and CEO said at the time, "This marks another step forward for SunTrust, and we remain committed to driving further improvements in our business performance and delivering long-term value to our shareholders."

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