Hurricane Katrina made it a challenging year for Motley Fool Income Investor selection AmSouth
For the fourth quarter, AmSouth reported earnings of $0.52 per share, a 6% increase over last year's $0.49. In addition, the company had a return on equity of 20.4% and an efficiency ratio (a measure of a bank's non-interest expenses divided by its revenue -- lower is better) of 51.7%. Both of these numbers are very healthy for a bank of any size. I'm particularly impressed by the efficiency ratio, given the bank's large size and penchant for expansion.
The results for the full fiscal 2005 were even more impressive. Excluding a one-time charge last year, earnings per share (EPS) rose 7.9% year over year, from $1.89 to $2.04. The fiscal year's return on equity and efficiency ratios were 20.4% and 52%, respectively; those numbers were in line with those for the fourth quarter. At 1.43%, the company's return on assets was a bit lower than the 1.5% threshold we look for in Income Investor selections, but it's by no means a cause for concern.
The outlook for next year is fairly positive as well. The company saw its net interest margin expand slightly during the fourth quarter, and it expects that margin to remain "relatively stable" going forward. This is impressive; many quality banks, including Fifth Third
Given the mixed to slightly positive outlook for the economy, banks in general look neither overly cheap nor expensive. AmSouth's attractive 3.7% dividend yield and P/E multiple of 13.4 suggest that it's reasonably priced, but the company's tepid earnings-growth guidance explains some of the discount. Still, AmSouth looks well positioned for the longer term, so it's hard to argue with opening a position in the stock at current levels. Investors looking for similar opportunities might also want to consider Regions Financial
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