Everyone knows Capital One’s trite soundbite: “What’s in your wallet?”
Overnight, the market found out what’s in Capital One’s balance sheet, and it didn’t like it one bit.
Yesterday, Capital One Financial reported earnings that fell well short of consensus: the $311 billion-company’s Q2 profit was $863 million, down 28% Y/Y. EPS was an ugly $1.50, $0.47 cents below the consensus estimate. Surprisingly this earnings plunge took place even as overall revenue rose 4% to $5.7 billion.
So what gives: a closer read through the numbers reveals that while average wages across the US are barely rising enough to cover inflation, Capital One felt the need to really incentivize its workfore with an increase in salaries and benefits 10 times higher than the national average, up 21%, to $1.4 billion, while marketing costs increased 16%, and professional-services fees grew 13%.
At the same time headcount increased 7%, to 47,500 even though COF concurrently took a $147 million charge for the restructuring its benefits plan “as a result of the realignment of our workforce.” COF did not provide details on the workforce changes that led to the charge.
End result: in moments, the stock wiped out all of its hard-earned gains for the year, and then some:
But the biggest shocker was something else found between COF’s top and bottom line: a surge in provisions for credit losses: at $1.1 billion this was a jump of 21% from Q1 and up a whopping 60% from the year prior. It was also the biggest credit loss provision the credit card company has taken since Q2 2012.
So the question: is this dramatic deterioration in COF’s loan book specific to the financial company which is nowhere near having a balance sheet big enough to mask its deteriorating loan book (or quality it for Too Big To Prosecute and/or Fail status), or is this a very loud, and very dead, canary in the credit coalmine, suggesting US consumers are suddenly unable to repay even their most basic purchases on credit?
As for Capital One, we wonder: “Is that a blowing up loan book in your wallet”? We hope to have the answer over the next several quarters, especially if as the Fed’s leak today suggested, a rate hike, which will lead to even greater credit losses, is imminent.