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Hovde Group upgrades BOK Financial


* Hovde Group analyst Joseph Fenech upgraded BOK Financial Corp. to "outperform" from "market perform."

He believes the Tulsa, Okla.-based company's shares can act as "a play on positive structural change." He noted that the company has all the positive characteristics of a recommendable stock: a well-performing community bank subsidiary, good management, and valuable core deposit base in attractive markets.

Furthermore, Fenech thinks the company's rise from the energy downturn will attract more investors as perception about the company begins to change positively. Although BOK Financial will still trade at a discount compared to its peers, the analyst believes the company's shares are "among the more attractive in our coverage universe."

He increased his price target to $94 from $74.


* Raymond James analyst William Wallace IV downgraded Union Bankshares Corp. to "outperform" from "strong buy." He increased his price target to $38 from $31.

But he noted that the current valuation is still attractive assuming peer valuation multiples, although he thinks the company's risk/reward profile would be more balanced if any takeout premium is removed from the stock -- which is driving the downgrade.

He also wrote that incoming CEO John Asbury's plans for Richmond, Va.-based Union Bankshares, including improving the company's liquidity and ensuring the company is prepared when it crosses the $10 billion threshold, will benefit the company and further improve its operating leverage through 2018.

The analyst expects the chief executive to create a plan to effectively lower the company's efficiency ratio, focusing on branch and process rationalization. Furthermore, the analyst thinks the company will continue to be active on the M&A front to augment its organic growth, following its acquisition of Old Dominion Capital Management Inc. in May. However, if the business' profitability drops due to increasing rates, Wallace said he "would not be surprised to see management consider meaningful changes to reduce its organizational footprint."