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There's a lot not to like about Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) right now -- I made that much clear in my recent article on Fool.de. Of course, as I outlined in that same article, there are still good reasons to consider buying Deutsche Bank.
And now, I'm moving beyond "consider" and actually buying Deutsche Bank stock for my Motley Fool real-money portfolio.
Why am I doing this? I'm glad you asked.
1. I'm timing the market
I'm kidding! Well, kind of.
I'm not timing the market in the traditional sense of trying to guess when a stock is going to go up or down. That's lunacy, and I don't recommend you do it.
The market I'm timing is the global banking market. As you probably recall, there was a pretty severe financial downturn about five years ago. Fire and brimstone rained down on banks around the world thanks to their imprudence in the years that preceded the crash.
Deutsche Bank was one of those banks that was hit particularly hard. From a high of almost 120 euros in 2007, the bank's home-market shares fell below 20 euros 00 for a collapse of more than 80%. This wasn't without reason. Standard & Poor's Capital IQ shows the bank posting a net loss of more than 3.8 billion euros in 2008.
But here's the thing: Though the 2008-2009 meltdown was particularly severe, it's not something that's particularly unusual. In fact, every few years or so, the financial sector tends to have a downturn. Thinking of it as a cycle, we can say that banks alternately spend time "de-risking" their balance sheets and "re-risking" their balance sheets.
I'm not telling you this just because it's interesting (though I happen to think it is). I'm telling you because periods of bank de-risking also tend to be good times to buy bank stocks. And banks around the world – Deutsche Bank included – have recently been in a multi-year de-risking process.
Now there is a risk that "this time it's different" and that de-risking won't be followed by better days for banks, but I tend to bet against calls for "this time it's different."
2. Well, it's Deutsche Bank, after all
Around the world, major banks tend to be a play on their home-country economies. For good long-term performance from the bank, you need it to be a well-run bank, but it's hard for a bank hitched to a lousy economy to perform well.
Now, as to Deutsche Bank and Germany -- which European country do you think had the lowest unemployment rate at the end of 2013? According to Eurostat, it was Norway at 3.5%. But what about second? OK, that was Austria at 4.9%. But coming in at a very strong third was Germany at 5.3%.
The German economy is one of the strongest in the world. It boasts a highly skilled, hard-working, and technically proficient workforce. It has a strong export-driven industry base that's globally known for leadership in auto manufacturing, industrial machinery, and chemicals. And Germany is home to major global powerhouses such as Bayer, Volkswagen, Siemens, and BMW.
Deutsche Bank, to be sure, is a global bank and gets significant revenue from outside Germany. However, as part of its Strategy 2015+, the bank is, at it has put it, "reinforcing its commitment to its home market, Germany, where it has deep roots and is a clear market leader."
Given the strength of the German economy, I think this is a smart move by Deutsche Bank, and it's another reason I like Deutsche as a buy right now.
3. And, yes, price
I saved price -- or, more exactly, valuation -- as my last of the three points because I don't like my thinking to be driven by price first. The latter would risk ending up buying a low-priced, bad company, with bad prospects -- and I don't want that.
According to Capital IQ, Deutsche's stock currently trades at a book value multiple of a mere 0.55. Readers who invest in bank stocks will know that the general advice is to buy a bank stock below book value and sell it above two times book value. On that guidance alone, Deutsche's stock would be a screaming buy. Again, that's not the only consideration, but, combined with other factors, I think this makes it a good time to invest in Germany's largest bank.
More to come?
There are other reasons to potentially like Deutsche bank right now, too. Though the overall results of the bank aren't anything to write home about, the core businesses appear to be performing well, and management appears to be well on track with Strategy 2015+. Management's talk about focusing more on client relations and improving the bank's culture are also encouraging. However, for now, that's just talk, and we'll need to watch Deutsche Bank over a longer period of time to see how that develops.
In the coming days, Deutsche Bank will be added to my real-money portfolio. And if you'd like to chat about why this is so brilliant (or stupid), there is a discussion board for exactly that purpose.