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Sell?! The City's lowest-rated FTSE 100 stock

Is the least-liked stock among City analysts (clue: it's a bank) in fact an ‘ugly duckling'?

 
Sell?! The City's lowest-rated FTSE 100 stock

City analysts are loath to dish out many ‘sell’ recommendations whatsoever, but they’ve made an exception for one FTSE 100 stock: Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L).

RBS is analysts’ least favourite FTSE 100 stock, according to the average buy, sell or hold rating assigned by City brokers. The 81% taxpayer-owned company has the lowest recommendation score of UK blue chips, data from Thomson Reuters show.

The bank, which has managed a share price gain of just 2% over the past year, trailing Lloyds’ 50% leap, has repeatedly dashed hopes of a recovery.

Ahead of 2013 annual results next Thursday (27 February) RBS has already warned of a ‘substantial’ loss for 2013, when it announced a move to hive off its toxic assets into a 'bad bank' in November.

The creation of the bad bank was met with murmurs of ‘too little, too late’. The move was intended to strengthen the bank's balance sheet allowing RBS to satisfy regulators and target a core tier 1 ratio of around 11% by the end of 2016. Its current ratio is a lowly 8%.

This in turn should bring forward the day it can resume dividend payments to shareholders and, crucially, the point at which the government can reprivatise the bank and start to sell its 81% stake.

Also in November Ross McEwan, who replaced Stephen Hester as the bank's chief executive last year, also confirmed plans for a partial flotation of Citizens, its US business, which it would also exit completely by 2016.

Then, at the end of January RBS reminded investors of the scale of its problems, using an unscheduled trading update – or ‘kitchen sinking’ exercise as frustrated investors called it – to announce an extra £3.1 billion to cover legal and compensation costs for past misdeeds. Some analysts are now pencilling a 2013 pre-tax profit loss of over £6 billion.

The bad sentiment towards RBS contrasts with general positivity towards financial stocks. Barclays (BARC.L) and HSBC (HSBA.L) are the most popular banks among analysts, followed by Lloyds (LLOY.L).

Of the few analysts who say RBS is worth buying, only Liberum’s Cormac Leech has a strong track record on the stock. For Liberum RBS is actually a ‘conviction pick’. Leech, describing RBS as the ‘Ugly Duckling’, points to the bank’s potential to be ‘highly profitable and low risk by 2017’.

Some patient fund managers are sticking their necks out too. RBS is a top 10 holding in River and Mercantile UK Eq Long Term Recovery , one of the best performing funds of 2013.

In December value equity specialist Daniel O’Keefe, the Citywire AAA-rated manager of the Artisan Global Value fund , told Citywire how he had bought into RBS, while criticising the 'populist' attacks on the bank since the 2008 financial crisis.

O’Keefe said the bank had made ‘tremendous progress’ since the financial crisis and restored a robust capital position, which was being overlooked by many investors.

In other words, the scale of analyst disenchantment with RBS underscores the potential for more contrarian investors to make money if RBS does pull through.

7 comments so far. Why not have your say?

peter hart

Feb 23, 2014 at 09:59

Perhaps that bloke Salmond will buy it.

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DIY

Feb 23, 2014 at 10:32

Yes, Peter!

But without GB Pounds, presumably he will have to offer in Bitcoins?

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peter hart

Feb 23, 2014 at 11:21

I was thinking payment in haggis. A couple should cover it.

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peter hart

Feb 23, 2014 at 11:23

I didnt mean it. Stay with us Scotland.

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DIY

Feb 23, 2014 at 18:45

If Bitcoins were denominated in haggis, maybe two would be too much?

BUT NOW you now raise another issue entirely!

FYG I am 100% Scottish - born in Aberdeen, both parents and their forbears Scottish. Family moved to Twickenham [can't get more English than that!]when I was 5 years old, where sent to the local primary school. The other kids couldn't understand my Scots accent. ADDED TO WHICH my dear old Mum sent me to the school on my first day togged out in a KILT! You can imagine the fun my fellow male and female pupils had . . . . .

Managed to overcome the langauge barrier by fast track learning of cockney.

Now, after all that hassle followed by long term residency in England, that bloke Salmond doesn't even have the courtesy to allow me a vote!

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peter hart

Feb 24, 2014 at 08:05

I went to school near the Elephant and Castle in South London. I cant imagine what would have happened if I had turned up in a kilt.

As to the impending independence vote I can only hope that common sense prevails.

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Maverick

Feb 24, 2014 at 14:46

Funny - if you turn up to Southampton Airport to take a flight to Edinburgh, they ask to see your passport already . . . . .

Peter Hart - There aren't many Scots in Edinburgh wearing kilts, either. You could take that to mean that Scots do have some common sense after all.

Remember what happened to the Irish pund when they took it out of parity with the pound?

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