Shares in focus: Should you avoid the TSB float?

High-street bank TSB is to be floated on the stock market. Should you snap up some shares? Phil Oakley investigates.

It's no exception to my IPO golden rule, says Phil Oakley.

The market for new share issues, orinitial public offerings (IPOs), is booming. But this is not necessarily good news for investors. Too often, IPOs are designed to maximise value for the seller and leave little or nothing on the table for the buyer. Brokers and advisers love them, because they earn fat fees.

I have a simple rule when it comes toIPOs and that is to buy when the government is selling and avoid all others.The experience of Royal Mail and some very pricey recent IPOs bears this out.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

That said, TSB looks like it is going to be priced more realistically than many others. Could it be one of the few exceptions that breaks my rule?

After the bungled attempt to sell some of its branches to the Co-operative Bank, Lloyds Banking Group is selling them on the stock exchange instead, branded as TSB.

Investors can now subscribe for shares. TSB used to be known as the bank that liked to say yes'. But should you say the same and sign up for some shares?

How has the business fared?

TSB has 4.5 million customers and 631 bank branches across the UK. In many ways it is a throwback to the old days of banking.

There's no fancy investment banking going on here. Instead, the focus is on the relatively unexciting tasks of taking in money from current and savings accounts (depositors) and lending it out to borrowers who want mortgages, personal loans and credit cards.

This may seem rather boring to some,but as far as investors are concerned, banks should be boring because it makes them less risky. If all goes well, a bank such as TSB should make more interest from its borrowers than it pays to its depositors.

On top of that it shouldhave plenty of equity to absorb any loan losses if the economy turns down.This should then allow it to make a modest return on shareholders' money where most of it is returned to them by way of a dividend.

So far, TSB scores quite well but when it comes to shareholder returns and dividends, it still has a lot to prove. TSB gets most of its interest income from mortgages. This effectively makes the bank a play on the health of the British housing market.

It has received a nice boost in the form of £3.4bn of mortgages lent to it by Lloyds, which is intended to boost profits by £220m over the next four years. Whether it will still have these mortgages after 2017 is by no means certain.

A slight problem for TSB is that a fair-sized chunk of its mortgages are paying interest capped at 2% above the Bank of England base rate (0.5%), which means it doesn't make as much profit as it could do. It is hoping to sell more profitable fixed-rate mortgages in future.

But just how risky are TSB's mortgages? High house prices and overstretched customers have burned investors in banks before. It is slightly worrying that 45% of TSB's mortgages are interest-only, which means that if house prices crash, the people who took out these mortgages could find that they can't repay them.

That said, the average loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of these mortgages is 45%. Eighty per cent of them have an LTV of less than 80%. Currently, these loans look reasonably safe.

However, mortgages are a key part of TSB's growth strategy. It wants to grow its loans by 40%-50% over the next few years.

With house price affordability looking stretched even at today's low interest rates, it's difficult to see demand for mortgages soaring when interest rates start to rise. TSB will hope to take market share from other lenders.

It might be able to do this as it currently has plenty of reserves to aid expansion. It will also look to win more current-account customers, but may have to offer higher interest rates to woo them.

How are the finances?

Unfortunately, TSB doesn't make enough profit to make an acceptable return on its big equity buffer (a high return on equity, or ROE). It's difficult to work out how much return it is making, but our guess is less than 10%, which is not very good.

That's true for most banks though. In the past they have only been able to earn high returns by borrowing more money and taking on more risk, but regulators won't tolerate that approach these days.

As for TSB, a low return on equity might be acceptable if it was all paid out in dividends. Sadly for TSB shareholders, they won't get one until 2017 at the earliest. However, retail investors will get one free share for every 20 subscribed for up to a maximum of £2,000.

Should you buy the shares?


The other important point is thatthe remaining three-quarters of the company will have to be sold by the end of 2015. So anyone buying shares in the upcoming flotation will have to cope with a lot more shares coming on to the market. That doesn't bode well for the share price.

All in all, TSB shares don't really look that tempting. Growing its profits and returns is far from easy; there is no dividend and there are lots more shares to be issued. We'd steer clear.

However, if you want to buy some, then get in touch with your stockbroker. The offer closes at 5pm on Tuesday, 17 June.

Verdict: avoid

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Offer price220p-290p
Market capitalisation£1.1bn-£1.45bn
Net asset value (March 2014)£1.58bn
Price-to-book-value ratio0.7-0.92 times
Equity as % of total assets5.9%
Loans to deposits99%
Dividend yieldn/a

Phil spent 13 years as an investment analyst for both stockbroking and fund management companies.


After graduating with a MSc in International Banking, Economics & Finance from Liverpool Business School in 1996, Phil went to work for BWD Rensburg, a Liverpool based investment manager. In 2001, he joined ABN AMRO as a transport analyst. After a brief spell as a food retail analyst, he spent five years with ABN's very successful UK Smaller Companies team where he covered engineering, transport and support services stocks.


In 2007, Phil joined Halbis Capital Management as a European equities analyst. He began writing for Moneyweek in 2010.

Follow Phil on Google+.