Earlier this year my Special Situations portfolio bought shares of Investors Bancorp (NASDAQ:ISBC). At the time the bank was about to complete a second-step conversion to become a fully public institution. The bank came off at a reasonable valuation -- about 110% of tangible book value -- and it looked like a great pick for the long term. But it's time to sell the stock because I've found an excellent value somewhere else and I need the cash.
One high-performing bank
The best part of Investors Bancorp was its high-performing operations. While most thrifts earn low returns on equity and are at best middling performers, Investors Bancorp has been a solid operator, scoring a 9.3% return on equity in 2013. Nonperforming assets never skyrocketed during the financial crisis -- as they did at most banks -- and today they're well below 1%.
With a new wad of cash from the second-step conversion, expect return on equity to go down for a while. But the company is ambitious, and it's reasonable to expect some acquisitions over the near term that will put that cash to work. And the bank may initiate a stock buyback early next year, as is typical for thrift conversions once they reach the one-year anniversary of conversion.
There's a lot to like at Investors Bancorp, and I expect it to perform well over the long term. So while I'm selling the stock, it's purely for reasons of portfolio management. I'm keeping Investors Bancorp on my watchlist, and if and when I have excess cash to deploy in the portfolio, I will definitely give the bank another look.
My decision to sell has little to do with the bank's operations and all to do with another great opportunity I've found. In fact, this new stock yields 9% and I think it could return 50% over the next year. That's huge upside, and the massive dividend should buoy the stock even in tough times. My Special Situations portfolio will be buying this high-yield stock later this week. If you want to be the first to know what it is, follow me on Twitter: @TMFRoyal. And check out my dedicated discussion board.