Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) shares have gained plenty of attention lately, as the bank approaches the $100 mark. Big profits, translating into big dividends, ignited the recent run-up in bank shares. A rotation out of growth no doubt has also helped.
However, managing director and chief investment officer at Allan Gray, Simon Mawhinney, believes there are other opportunities out there for investors.
CBA shares fall outside sweet spot
In its first national investment forum for the year, Alan Gray kicked things off in Brisbane on Wednesday. Mawhinney shared the Allan Gray approach to investing of long-term, contrarian, and fundamental to a loaded room of eager attendees.
Sticking to the Allan Gray values, Mawhinney suggested that the Commonwealth Bank is now sitting outside the fund’s ‘sweet spot’. Which is to say, the bank now trades at too high of a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for its liking.
For comparison, the rising Commonwealth Bank share price has seen its earnings multiple expand from 11.96 times nearly 10 years ago, to 25.91 times. The industry average is around 15.6 times.
Commenting on Australia’s biggest bank, Mawhinney said:
I believe its earnings and returns on equity are likely to mirror the average of the other banks and suspect that investors would be better off choosing another bank to invest in rather than CBA. But I am not advocating investing in the banks either. There are a lot of other opportunities available to investors.
A potential ASX challenger to Commonwealth Bank
If the banks are not looking favourable, then what are the alternatives? Well, Simon Mawhinney offered a potential contrarian opportunity in the form of Challenger Ltd (ASX: CGF).
The fund has been adding to its position in Challenger recently, with its weighting growing to nearly 2% as of 11 May 2021. Allan Gray added heavily following the annuities company’s third-quarter results, which was met with a 10% selloff.
Mawhinney provided the following commentary on why Challenger looks attractive:
Its annuity distribution network is disrupted and rates it can afford to pay its annuitants has been negatively impacted by the low returns it is able to achieve from its investment portfolio. This is all true but viewed in isolation, is only one side of the coin.
The other side, the price you pay for Challenger, can’t be ignored. In my opinion, some if not a lot of these headwinds are factored into the current share price
Mawhinney doesn’t foresee an imminent reversal in the share price of the ASX’s biggest bank. Though, Challenger might have less upside currently priced in, compared to the Commonwealth Bank.