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Investing in banks

Peter Siks

Summary:  In this article, you will read about the attractiveness of European banks at their current levels, given the appealing dividend and share buyback programmes that support the share price. The strategy described will be using both stocks and options.


This can in no way be regarded as a recommendation to make the described transaction. It is merely an educational article about potential trade set ups whereby dividend yield, share buybacks, and options are combined.

Investing in banks
There are large groups of investors who do not invest in banks due to their complexity, reliance on interest rates for profitability, increased regulatory pressure, dependence on national/European political decisions, and economic circumstances in general.

On the other hand, there are investors who are willing to accept the risks that come into play when investing in banks. And at this moment in time, there are opportunities for those investors.

The trade set up
The idea about this trade/investment is fairly simple: to be long the stock and short the option premium. This set up only works for a neutral to slightly bullish view on banks. If you think that bank stock prices will fall, this article is not meant for you. This set up is also not applicable if you believe bank stocks will go up by 20% or more.

The setup: You buy half the number of stocks you want and at the same time sell a strangle (or straddle) option set to expire on the third Friday of December this year. This will be illustrated in the example below.

By selling the strangle, you enter into an obligation: either to deliver the shares at the strike price (the call) or to buy the shares at the strike price (the put). This last potential obligation is the reason why you only buy half of the number of stocks you want.

European financials
Below, you will find a screenshot of a number of shares that meet certain criteria. The available Saxo Screener is used to narrow the available universe down to come to this list. Some of the filters:

  • Dividend yield > 5%
  • Market cap minimum 10 billion
  • Currency is EUR
  • The sector is financials (that is why you also see some insurers)

 

Source: Saxo Screener 15th February 2024

You see that a number of financials meet the criteria and it shows the power of the screener. As an example, BNP is used in the trade set up.

  • Step 1: Buy 100 shares
  • Step 2: Sell the strangle that expires in December 2024

Shares are currently trading at 53.96
The 50 – 55 strangle (the 50 put and the 55 call € 6.56  -
Investment (before transaction costs) € 4,740 (€ 4.74 per share is multiplied by 100)

Source: Saxo Screener 15th February 2024

Scenarios

The possible scenario’s of this position at the 20th of December 2024.

The stock is above EUR 55

You will have to deliver the shares at, so you receive 5,500
Initial investment 4,740 –
Profit 760
Dividend received 7,23% (= EUR 3.90 per share)    390 +
Total profit including dividend 1,150

Stock is trading unchanged at EUR 53.96

You do not have to deliver the shares, so you can sell them for 5,396
Initial investment 4,740 –
Profit    656
Dividend received of EUR 3.90 per share)    390 +
Total profit including dividend 1,046

 

Stock is trading lower at EUR 48

You have to buy an extra 100 shares at EUR 50, due to the put. This brings your total holding to 200 shares at an average price of (EUR 47.40 + EUR 50)/2 = EUR 48.70.

The stock is currently trading at  48
You make a loss on the shares of 200 * 0.70 = 140
You did receive a dividend during 2024 390 -
That gives a profit of this set up of 250

 Break even

You are long 200 shares at an average price of € 48.70.
The stock is currently trading at € 46.75
You make a loss on the shares of 200 * € 1.95 = € 390
You did receive a dividend during 2024 of € 390 and that offsets the loss in the shares. This means that you have a downside buffer of € 53.96 - € 46.75 = € 7.21 (13.3%).

One exception
If you would set up the trade like described above, there is a small chance that you will be assigned on the short call option. If this is done before the dividend, you will not get the dividend. But this is not a bad scenario because your initial investment of €4,740 will be sold at €5,500. The only thing you miss is the dividend.

Wrap up
If you want to set up a position that does not ask much monitoring or adjusting, financials might be an interesting corner of the market to consider. Nevertheless, the risk is on the downside, and only consider a set up like this if you have a neutral to (slightly) bullish view on European financials.

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