Yesterday, shares in Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) went into a trading halt after it inadvertently published an Excel template on its website, which contained selected earnings data.
The bank said that although it remains in compliance with its continuous disclosure obligations, it requested the trading halt, “out of (an) abundance of caution,” until it could release the template more widely to the market.
The template, which was incomplete and could be found on the bank’s website last week, showed a positive 3% movement in its second half 2014 cash profit, up from $3.506 billion in the first half. This implies a full year cash profit of approximately $7.11 billion, ahead of consensus forecasts. In 2013 ANZ’s full year cash profit was $6.498 billion.
The release also gave readers some other insights. For example, compared to the first half of FY14, the bank’s Australian division grew its cash profit by 15%, whilst New Zealand showed an 11% decline. Asia Pacific, Europe & Americas produced a result which was 19% lower than the prior period.
The accidental release is intriguing and although the numbers were unaudited and adjusted for foreign exchange movements, they point to a stronger official full year result. ANZ and National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) report their results on 30 October. Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) reports its full year results 3 November.
Buy, Hold, or Sell?
For a while, I’ve been saying ANZ is the best big bank stock for those investors wanting superior growth in the next decade. Its exposure to Asia and other foreign markets will enable it to counteract a slowdown in the domestic economy, though yesterday’s unofficial results appear to confound this thesis.
However, whilst ANZ could be our most efficient and fastest growing big bank, now isn’t the right time to buy any big bank stocks, even ANZ. At today’s prices none of them offer compelling value. In fact, some of them could even be overvalued!
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Motley Fool Contributor Owen Raszkiewicz does not have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.
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