Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) shares are currently selling at a price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 12.41. This is just below the company’s 10 year P/E average of 13.7. Year-to-date the CommBank share price is still down by 14.3%. For me, this appears a relatively good entry price for a bona fide ASX blue chip. Moreover, beyond price, the company is working diligently to build value.
Colonial First State has long been the CommBank’s wealth-management arm. On 15 March CommBank announced it would be selling 55% of Colonial to US private equity firm KKK for AUD$1.7 billion. This will allow the bank to simplify its business model and focus on its core business of banking.
CommBank and KKK have both announced plans to invest significant capital into Colonial. Among these is a more rapid transition to digital channels.
Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said:
“We are confident that together with KKR, we can provide CFS with an increased capacity to invest in product innovation, new services and its digital capabilities. We have a shared vision for CFS to be one of the leading superannuation and investment businesses in Australia.”
Branching into buy now pay later (BNPL)
CommBank announced it was to launch Swedish private fintech, Klarna in Australia on 30 January. A plan later derailed by the COVID-19 outbreak. CommBank holds a 5.5% stake in Klarna. Increasing from its original 1.8% holding. The companies will jointly fund and have 50:50 ownership rights to Klarna’s Australian and New Zealand business.
Given the events in the BNPL sector this week this is a very big deal. Although it recently made a loss, Klarna is already one of the giants in the BNPL space. In fact, it was the original pioneer. CommBank’s 5.5% purchase provides access to an existing large customer and merchant base with an established beachhead in the USA.
CommBank is Australia’s largest payments processor. This means its 50%-owned Klarna Australian operations will start with immediate national coverage.
CommBank shares are selling at a reasonable price of $68.76 at the time of writing and it is well-positioned for future growth. Its $1.5 billion allowance for COVID-19-related damage is covered by the sale of 55% of Colonial. Furthermore, Colonial is more likely to increase earnings as part of the core business of a private equity firm. Lastly, its position in Klarna sets it up to play a dominant role in the Australian BNPL sector, as well as on the global stage.
There are still uncertain times ahead to be sure. However, I believe that CommBank shares are a wise investment at this price over the medium to long term. It will lock in steady capital growth, as well as locking in a future dividend at a 12-month trailing average at 6.28%.