The Best Bargain Among Kenya’s Big Three Bank Stocks

The NSE’s largest three bank stocks have just reported their mid-year results. Which one offers the most compelling combination of profitability and value?

KCB, Equity Group, and Co-operative Bank of Kenya have just released their mid-year financial statements.

Let’s take a look at the numbers to determine which Kenyan bank offers investors the most value now.

Start With the Book-to-Price Ratio

When analyzing a bank stock, the first thing we want to figure out is its book value per share.

Also known as net asset value (NAV) or shareholders’ equity, book value is the amount left over after subtracting a company’s liabilities from its assets.

Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Book Value

For example, Co-operative Bank has total assets of roughly Ksh398 billion and approximately Ksh330 billion worth of liabilities. Thus, its book value is roughly Ksh68 billion.

Ksh398 billion – Ksh330 billion = Ksh68 billion

We then divide this figure by the bank’s total shares outstanding to arrive at the stock’s book value per share.

Co-operative Bank has issued 5.867 billion shares. So, in theory, if the bank shut down today and settled all of its liabilities, each investor would be left with Ksh11.59 for each share that he or she owned.

Pretty neat, right?

Now let’s compare this book value per share figure to the stock’s current price.

As I write this, Co-operative Bank’s share price stands at Ksh17.05.

Wait a second… why would anyone pay Ksh17.05 for a share of a bank that will only be worth Ksh11.59 if the bank were to shutter its doors tomorrow?

Because investors are betting that the bank won’t shut down tomorrow. In fact, they not only believe the bank will remain open, but they’re betting that it will grow and thrive for many years to come. Therefore, they’re willing to pay a premium above book value to reap the rewards of this growth.

The book-to-price (B/P) ratio measures the magnitude of this premium. To calculate it, simply divide the company’s book value per share (Ksh11.59) by its current share price (Ksh17.05). Co-op’s B/P ratio is 0.68.

Follow the same steps for KCB and Equity Group, and we’ll find the following:

Company Book/Price Ratio
Co-operative Bank of Kenya 0.68
Equity Group 0.46
KCB Group 0.65

All else being equal, the higher a stock’s book-to-price ratio is, the better the return it potentially offers. Why? Because you’re buying more of the company’s book value with each shilling that you invest.

Thus, Co-operative would appear to be the best of the bunch. With a book-to-price ratio of 0.68, 68% of the stock’s current price is literally in the bank.

But wait!

Not all banks are created equal. Some grow quickly. Others seem content to rest on their laurels. Some work relentlessly to innovate and improve the efficiency of their operations, while others are more lackadaisical. In other words, some banks are just more profitable than others.

Thus a bank with a high book/price ratio might turn out to be a dud of an investment if its profitability isn’t up to snuff.

Calculate the ROE

We can quickly measure a business’s profitability by looking at its return on equity (ROE).

ROE measures how much profit a company earns relative to its book value. To calculate it, we simply divide the company’s earnings during the most recent twelve-month period by its average book value during the period.

ROE = Earnings / ((Beginning Book Value + Ending Book Value) / 2)

All else equal, the higher a stock’s ROE is, the better.

The chart below shows the ROE of each of our three Kenyan banks over the most recent twelve months.

Company Return on Equity (ROE)
Co-operative Bank of Kenya 18.0%
Equity Group 23.9%
KCB Group 21.8%

Wow. Equity Group is generating a return of nearly 24% on each shilling’s worth of book value. In light of that, it’s easy to understand why its book-to-price ratio is lower than the other two banks. It’s simply more profitable. Consequently, investors are willing to pay more for its shares.

But are they justified in doing so? Is Equity Group the NSE’s best big bank bargain?

To find out, let’s put the B/P ratio and ROE together.

Derive the Implied Return

Equity Group’s B/P ratio of 0.46 tells us that if we invest 100 shillings in the company, we are effectively buying 46 shillings worth of the bank’s book value.

If we assume that Equity’s ROE will remain level at 23.9% over the next twelve months, then the 46 shillings of book value will grow by nearly 11 shillings.

Ksh46.00 x 23.9% = Ksh10.99

Thus the return on our Ksh100.00 investment is 10.99%.

Perform the same calculation on KCB and Co-op, and we get the following implied returns over the next twelve months.

Company Implied Return
Co-operative Bank of Kenya 12.2%
Equity Group 10.9%
KCB Group 14.2%

So, there we have it. With an implied return of 14.2% over the next twelve months, KCB offers the best combination of profitability and value.

Some Notes of Caution

In the last step of the above valuation exercise, we made a pretty significant assumption. We assumed that each bank’s ROE would remain level over the next twelve months. This will almost certainly turn out to be inaccurate.

I don’t expect the real numbers will end up being dramatically different, but if you do, substitute your ROE forecast for the one I used and see how it alters the stock’s implied return.

Finally, keep in mind that Kenyan investors can obtain a 10% return nearly risk-free by purchasing the M-Akiba Bond. Thus, an implied stock return of 11%, 12%, or even 14% isn’t terribly exciting given the risks inherent to investing in shares.

I’d like to see KCB drop to a price of Ksh47.00 before rating the stock a “buy.” At that price, the stock’s implied return would exceed 15%.

Your Turn

What do you think about this quick valuation exercise? Which one of the three banks do you believe will end up being the best performer over the next twelve months? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

20 thoughts on “The Best Bargain Among Kenya’s Big Three Bank Stocks”

  1. First of all thanks for this simplified article in investments, I just got my first job this year and have some funds I would like to invest. As a first time investor this is very helpful, I will be sure to read more of your articles from now on. Thank You

    1. Due to the high risk nature of stocks, I’d advise you to pool your your funds with other investors in an Equity fund unit trust account. Eg britam, icea lion, cic etc. They’re professionally managed, and will apply similar formulae for ALL listed companies so that you won’t be adversely affected by industry fluctuations (which are guaranteed).

      1. Thanks, Jennifer. Good advice. Funds are the best way to get exposure to the market if you don’t have the time or interest in researching and analyzing stocks yourself. Just keep your eyes on the fund’s fees as some of them can be quite high and eat into your return. Go for an index fund, if available. They tend to outperform their actively-managed peers.

        1. Thanks Ryan for the analysis, i agree with you that fees and taxes on the long run reduces the returns on the investment, therefore, index fund is the way to go but i have encountered challenges in locating one. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Great quick dive into the accounts and first dip into investing ratios, glad you picked 3 very dynamic and well-managed banks. The KSh currency has also been very stable vs USD since Oct 2015, long may that continue.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Tom. Your blog ( is a staple of my media diet. Fingers crossed on the currency!

  3. Well and simply explained analysis… i do believe KCB will emerge as the winner eventually…… Equity on the other hand could drag a bit but recent results were over the top and with this trend banks could be a good bargain opportunity… and better when capping law is removed

    1. Thanks, James. And good point on the interest rate caps. If/when they’re removed, there’s a good chance that ROEs will increase (and not necessarily in lockstep).

  4. My first newsletter from you as I venture into willful investment in the NSE – my previous experience being limited to a few youthful purchases that have sat on for 20 years without follow up. I appreciate that now I can go on more that just gut feeling or popular opinion. Thanks and I look forward to more good reads like this.

    1. Thanks, Lydia! So glad you found it helpful. Will do my best to keep new posts coming. Don’t hesitate to let me know if there are particular topics that you’d like to see covered.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. And you may be right on Equity. It’s probably a better business than KCB. The question I’m wrestling with is whether that fact has already been factored into its share price. We shall see! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I have been searching for simplified lessons on stocks for a long time. Thank you very much for making my life easier at NO COST (other than internet charges, of course)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *