Bank of America Earnings Call Insights: Commercial Real Estate and Fixed Income Trading

Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Commercial Real Estate

Glenn Schorr – Nomura: Good loan growth on the C&I and commercial real estate side. Just curious, what kinds of yields is that bringing being brought on? And from what I understand, theres pretty reasonable competition for those new loans, so just curious on how you balance the growth and margin compression in the markets?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Its interesting, if we look at the commercial loan balances across the platform, the spread on the new originations was actually up slightly relative to both the fourth quarter of last year as well as relative to the first quarter of last year. And its interesting in that the loans that came on, not only were the spreads wider, but based on our internal risk ratings, the credit quality of what was being brought on was also stronger. So we feel like the loans that were bringing on were doing in a prudent way, and you can see that as you look in the supplements that a decent chunk of the loans that are being brought on are international, not any real concentrations, but both international, domestic, and really across all products.

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Glenn Schorr – Nomura: I wanted to get your thoughts on the expenses from Slide 9. I wanted to make sure that I understood. Should the starting point, being that the retirement eligible is a first quarter phenomenon, is the starting point, the $18.12 billion less the $900 million or so as we think about second quarter and then folding in the New BAC incremental efficiencies?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Yes. I think, Glenn, that’s exactly right that that $18.2 billion included the $900 million from the retirement eligible employees that only happens once a year, so you are right. As you go to the second quarter, the starting point should be $17.3 million. The two other things that I would point out once again is that, if you look at the compensation expense in the first quarter relative to the last couple quarters of last year, it was elevated by about $800 million based on the revenues that we saw within the sales and trading, the Global Banking, and to a lesser extent the wealth management business. So, we hope those repeat, but I would just highlight that that’s a delta relative to the last several quarters of last year. And then obviously, from that starting point, we would look to continue to drive down expenses based on the work that we’ve spoken about with New BAC that we would expect to achieve throughout the year…

Glenn Schorr – Nomura: You also mentioned your long term debt is down $75 billion year-on-year and you expect more maturities in ’13 and ’14, in the 20s. I guess that’s perfectly straightforward. Does that include any adjustments for what’s coming down the pipe with OLA or do you have to just take a wait and see attitude on what those rules are?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Yes. I think, we obviously are paying close attention to the different OLA proposals. I think, if you look at the mix between the Merrill debt as well as the BAC debt, and you compare those dollar amounts relative to risk weighted assets and you compare us relative to our peers, at least all of the work that weve done suggests that were at the very high-end of the amount of debt and related instruments that we have relative to risk-weighted assets. So the rules obviously are not clear at this point. We feel like were positioned very well based on what we understand the different proposals are that are out there, realizing it still is moving around. So as we go throughout the year, we would expect, as I said, to continue to drive that footprint down, not only in 2013 but throughout 2014, and we continue to be very focused on that Glenn.

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Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: Glenn, Ill add that theres also rationalization of the footprint. Remember this was put on by various companies, not by one company, that weve been restructuring. So even if there was an amount outstanding, the cost can come down, because you can string it out. The rates paid are fairly high, because theyre different environments than weve been in, and expect to be in in the next couple years. So theres even value, even if you said the notion wouldnt move as far, based on some interpretation of the rules, to get the debt footprint more rational and more spread across time than it is today.

Fixed Income Trading

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: Just to follow up a little bit on the fixed income trading results. Obviously it can be lumpy quarter to quarter, but it was down a bit more than we saw elsewhere. You talked about some of the mortgage areas. Was there a particular gain last year that was unusual or is it just activity?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: No, as I said, we referenced three things. The first was, there was a gain that as you look at that decline that was in the area of $250 million that I would categorize more, quite frankly, as a recovery than a gain that we had highlighted during the quarter last year. So a decent chunk of that was a gain that did not recur. Then I think its important, if you go and look at, during the quarter what we saw the financial spreads, which tend to be a fairly significant part of any FIC trading business, tighten significantly in the first quarter of last year, and during the first quarter of this year start to finish, actually widened. So that was the second piece of it. And then the third piece is we referenced is that commodities had a particularly strong quarter last year and did not have a stronger quarter this year. So those three general things I would say flows generally continue to be very strong, and as you look at where we were relative to the fourth quarter of last year, I actually think we continue to make good progress. But it was a little lumpy in the first quarter of last year.

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Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: And Id add, as you think about how were running the Global Markets business, if you look at our VAR and our risk taking, were keeping a balance relative to the rest of the Company. And so there will be times when people do better than we are, and times we will do better than them. But were keeping it balanced. The second thing that Tom Montag and team worked on the expense side, so you can see the operating leverage when you look at across the first quarter of last year this year, and importantly the fourth quarter of last year to this year. You can see that with a little bit of revenue, you generate a lot more profit. And so the idea is were keeping this business so that we can make good money at a $3 billion trading revenue level in the aggregate in the business and a lot of money at a $5 billion level, and youre seeing that play out. So if you think about, we made money I think every trading day of the quarter. The VAR was down. And so I think we should be careful to think that we may not roar as much as other people might, because this is one of the many businesses that we have, and we drive it for the benefit of the investing customers and also the issuing customers…

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: Then, just separately in terms of your capital actions, I think many were positively surprised by the CCAR Fed approval for buybacks of both common and preferred. Just any commentary in terms of the pace of the common share repurchase, and on the preferred side, the timing of that? And do you have to issue any to replace what you are calling?

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Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: Two things, and that the first is you probably saw, I believe on April 1, we actually went ahead and issued the redemption notices for the $5.5 billion of preferreds that are outstanding, just under $500 million of preferred dividend savings that we’ll have on that, and there was no requirement to issue to replace that, so as you look at that redemption, that’s a good redemption where you can look at those savings. As it relates to the common, we’d expect to be balanced and work through the share repurchase throughout the year, and really don’t have much more to comment on than that.

A Closer Look: Bank of America Earnings Cheat Sheet>>