Capital One Financial Corp. (COF), Wells Fargo & Co (WFC), U.S. Bancorp (USB): One Stock Crushing the Competition but Overlooked by Investors

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Over the past several years, Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) has transformed from a credit card juggernaut to a more traditional bank. If you’re concerned this shifting business might hurt its profitability, the trends revealed in Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF)’s latest numbers should ease your mind.

Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF)

Phenomenal net interest margin
As detailed in a prior article, Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) has an almost unmatched net interest margin, or NIM, thanks largely to the great returns its credit card unit generates:

Bank Net Interest Margin
Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) 3.46%
U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) 3.43%
PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC) 3.58%
Capital One 6.83%

Source: Company Second-Quarter Earnings Reports

While we know it’s not apples-to-apples to compare Capital One’s NIM to those of the peers because of the differences in loan types, it might help us see how those numbers have grown over the last year:

Source: Company Earnings Reports.

How has Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) bucked the trend of its peers, and in fact almost all U.S. banks, and grown its net interest margin year over year? Put simply, Capital One has managed to squeeze more money out of its assets while paying less on its liabilities.

The higher interest rate the bank is earning stems entirely from its credit card business, which saw its average interest rate earned grow 140 basis points over the last year.

Q2 2012 Q2 2013 YOY Growth
Business Average Balance Yield Average Balance Yield Average Balance BPS Growth
Domestic Credit Card $72 13.3% $76 14.6% 6.1% 130
International Credit Card $8 14.2% $8 16.2% -2.6% 200
Total Credit Card $80 13.4% $84 14.8% 5.2% 140

Source: SEC 10-Q. Balances in billions.

This increase in both the average balance and yield of Capital One’s credit card business produced an additional $433 million in interest income from this division. But Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) as a whole only saw its interest income grow by $394 million, as the amount of interest collected on consumer and commercial banking loans fell.

On the other side of the balance sheet, Capital One had to pay out less on its borrowings and customers’ deposits, which reduced its net interest expense by approximately $150 million.

Not Only NIM
As a result of its very healthy and quickly growing NIM, Capital One also boasts a very healthy return on assets when compared to its peers:

Bank Q2 2013 ROA
Capital One 1.66%
U.S. Bancorp 1.70%
PNC 1.49%
Wells Fargo 1.55%

Source: Company Earnings Reports.

The interest earned on its loans is an especially important factor for Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF) because it does not have as many fee-generating businesses as U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and its other regional competitors.

In addition to its strong return on assets, Capital One also has a robust efficiency ratio, which essentially measures how much money the bank must spend to generate $1 of revenue. Like golf, the lower the number, the better:

Source: Company Earnings Reports.

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