What determines how valuable a company is? Turnover? Dividend yield? Well, most people would say profitability. In basic terms, the more money a company makes, the more it is worth.
One of the most profitable UK firms
And what are the most profitable companies in Britain? Well, you might think of oiliesBP, and Royal Dutch Shell. But the share prices of both these giants have been sliding as the oil price has tumbled.What about mining firms?BHP Billiton is one of the worlds leading commodity businesses. But as the price of metals and minerals has been crunched, so has BHPs share price.
Then theres Vodafone, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. All three are great businesses,but none of them can claim to be Britains most profitable company.
Instead what is emerging as one of the countrys most valuable firms is that most unlikely of beasts: a profitable bank.
Step forward HSBC (LSE: HSBA).
A bank? Profitable? With their reputation? These days, post-Lehman and with record low interest rates, PPI and money laundering fines, that almost seems a contradiction in terms. But HSBC makes more money than just about any other company in Britain, and any other bank globally. It leaves rivals like Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group in the dust.
Falling share price
But you know the odd thing about it? The share price of HSBC has been falling steadily for the past three years. In 2013 it stood at over 700p. Today its valued at 523p. For long-suffering bank shareholders, its been adifficult and bumpy ride.
But I think that better things lie ahead for this unloved banking titan and that HSBC in future years will be as profitable as it has ever been. Look at the reported and predicted five year earnings per share progression, and youll see what I mean:
Its expected that a slight dip in profitability for2014 will be reversed for 2015, with profitslikelyto be as high as when the share price was 700p+. Thats why I think the prospects are good for the share price to reach its 2013 highs.
Throw in a dividend yield thatsconsistent, rising, and currently stands at 5.67%,and this stock starts to appeal even more.
HSBC was one of the few British banks to emerge virtually unscathed from the Credit Crunch and the Great Recession. Thats why investors must have been even more disappointed when the share price fell in recent years. But I suspect the tide is turning.
Of course, theres another key factor. Ive often talked about a shift of the worlds centre of gravity to the East and HSBC is well placed to benefit from this. So frustratedshareholders shouldnt give up hope as this bank really is a strong buy.
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Prabhat Sakya has no holding in any of the companies mentioned in this article.