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July 4, 2018 | Citizens Financial Group | CFG

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This week’s Stock of the Week is a newly independent bank that has been showing signs of improvement.

Refocused Bank

Citizens Financial Group (CFG) has been improving its balance sheet, reducing risk and boosting efficiency since becoming independent of former owner Royal Bank of Scotland in late 2015.

The three-year refocusing process is now showing good results, and Citizens will also benefit from recent changes in federal regulation under which its assets of $150 billion are no longer considered enough for it to be deemed a systemically important financial institution (SIFI). That means less regulation and potentially lower compliance costs.

Citizens has about 1,150 branches in 11 states in New England, the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic. Its performance was mediocre under RBS ownership, and it still has some distance to go to match competitors despite all the recent improvements. This presents a buying opportunity for investors as the refocusing and tightening of operations continue. Revenue was $5.7 billion last year and should grow to $6.1 billion this year and $6.4 billion in 2019. And the dividend of $0.88/share/yr., recently yielding 2.2%, appears secure.

Fiscal year: December. Earnings per share: 2019 est./$3.81…2018 est./$3.44…2017/$2.58.

Lisa A. Welch is senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management and portfolio manager of the $2.4 billion John Hancock Regional Bank Fund (FRBAX), Boston. JHFunds.com

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