Here’s Why Wells Fargo & Co. Continues to Sit Atop the Biggest Banks

Much has been made of the most recent announcement from the Federal Reserve surrounding the stress test results of Bank of America and Citigroup, but it turns out the biggest news is from Wells Fargo.

Patrick Morris
Patrick Morris
Apr 2, 2014 at 11:29AM

If you thought Citigroup getting its dividend rejected was the biggest story last week, you're dead-wrong.

The biggest news actually came from Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).

Wells Fargo announced it would be raising its dividend from $0.30 to $0.35, which would bump its dividend yield to almost 3% at today's prices. An interesting fact about that dividend of $0.35 is it's just ahead of the $0.34 Wells Fargo paid in 2008 before it was forced to slash it to $0.05 as a result of the financial crisis.

This is more evidence Wells Fargo has fully recovered from the depths of the recession.

Yet the big news was not the dividend, but instead, the approval of the plan to buyback a staggering 350 million shares. At today's prices, that would be nearly $17.5 billion. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Although unrelated, to truly put it into perspective, that amount is roughly the same size as Chipotle Mexican Grill.

What is perhaps even more striking is the firm notes it still has a remaining 74 million of share repurchases which have been authorized under its last plan, meaning it has nearly $20 billion in available repurchase authorization. 

Source: Flickr / Matthew Devalle.

The reason for optimism
In addition to its dividends, last year Wells Fargo noted it repurchased 124 million of its common stock and in total returned 55%, or $11.4 billion, of its income to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

At a recent presentation its CFO, Tim Sloan, highlighted the firm hoped to return between 50% and 65% of its income to shareholders. Although it delivered remarkable returns in 2013, this means Wells Fargo believes it had further to go, which is evidenced all the more by its latest request.

It is unlikely Wells Fargo will utilize the entirety of its repurchase authorization in 2014, but its request for such a staggering amount demonstrates that not only does the firm believes its stock is something worth buying at today's prices, but also that it is fully committed to returning the money it earns back into the wallets of shareholders.

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And that is something its owners must be happy about.