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First Horizon National Corporation (FHN), SunTrust Banks, Inc. (STI), BB&T Corporation (BBT): Banks That Will Benefit From Final Basel III Rules

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Earlier this week, the regulators finally published the Basel III rules for U.S. banks. It is widely believed that the rules were in line with investor expectations for the “advanced” banks but at the same time, provided some relief for the non-advanced banks. Particularly, First Horizon National Corporation (NYSE:FHN), SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE:STI), and BB&T Corporation (NYSE:BBT) will benefit the most. First, let’s look at the new rules and see how they favorably impact the aforementioned banks.

Newly published rules

First Horizon National Corporation (NYSE:FHN)a new set of rules that are designed to prevent another 2008 crisis, U.S. regulators gave some leverage to the relatively smaller banks. Also, the regulators seemed reluctant to make changes which might adversely impact the housing market recovery.

While some changes were made, the regulator left the supplementary leverage ratio unchanged at 3%. However, I believe it will be changed on the July 9 meeting. Supplementary ratio is a measure that looks at capital held against total assets as opposed to the popular risk-weighted assets. Among a few of the changes made include a narrower definition of what counts as a bank’s capital, the doubling of the minimum ratio for capital and assets, and the reclassification of derivatives and mortgage-based securities as riskier than in the previous standards. Let’s look at some of these major changes in detail.

Narrower capital definition

The change in the definition of Tier 1 common capital was one of the major changes under the final rules for unrealized gains and losses on available for sale securities.

The regulators require advanced banks to include the gains and losses from available for sale securities in their other comprehensive income. However, the regulators gave the non-advanced banks the option to opt out of including the unrealized gains and losses from their Tier 1 capital. This option will leave the smaller banks with less volatility in their capital levels and ratios, leading to smaller buffers for interest rate risk above minimum capital ratios due to reduced volatility. Therefore, it is a modest positive for the industry.

Changes in risk-weighted assets

The regulators did not make any significant changes in the calculations of the risk-weighted asset calculations. However, the minor changes are focused on the treatment of mortgage risk weights.

Under the previous regulations, mortgage risk weights were tied to the loan-to-value of the underlying loan and usually received risk weights within the range of 75%-200%. However, under the new regulations, the risk weighting would be within the range of 50%-100%. First lien exposures that are not 90+ days past due, and that have not been restructured or re-modified, would receive 50% risk weighting, while all other residential mortgage exposures would receive 100% risk weighting.

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