Last year, I wrote quite a few posts on the subject of the credit crunch, aka the GFC (“Global Financial Crisis”) or GD2 (“Great Depression 2”). Whatever you want to call it, it has been unfolding for almost two years, and does not show any signs of letting up yet. The hardest hit to date have been banks. Many, including Northern Rock, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual and every Icelandic bank have fallen along the way, via bankruptcy, merger or Government bailout. Others limp along with the odd adrenaline shot from Government to shake a little more life back into the patient.
Just one of these terminal patients is the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose market capitalization has fallen by 90% over the last two years, despite large injections of capital by the UK Government. The bank’s chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, has just resigned and was described by the Telegraph as “the most reviled man in Britain”. The once gargantuan Citigroup has shrunk even more and is now 92% smaller than it was in January 2007. In contrast, whether by good luck or good management, Australian banks have held up well. Nab has been the worst affected, thanks in part to some pesky CDO write-downs, shrinking by 55%. Westpac has weathered the storm better than any major bank in the world, with a fall of only 17% in its market capitalisation. (Quick note to shareholders: your investment will have fallen by more than this since market capitalization equals share price times number of shares and like all banks, Westpac have raised additional capital during the course of the crisis and of course they have also bought St George).
The differing fortunes of the world’s banks in the face of the GFC has led to a significant re-ranking of the size scoreboard. The chart below was inspired by JP Morgan’s “pea chart”, which was doing the rounds last week*, and shows a ranking of 25 of the largest banks today and compares their current market capitalization to that of January 2007. How much has changed in two years! Once the largest bank in the world, Citigroup now languishes at number 20 in this list and is smaller than Westpac, CBA and nab. Even ANZ is now larger than Deustche Bank. How the mighty have fallen!
For those who are interested in poring over the gory details, I have posted a monthly history of the market capitalization of these and a number of other banks over on Swivel. All the figures have been converted to US dollars based on exchange rates at month end. All the data was sourced from Bloomberg. I have tried to include all the major publicly listed banks around the world (which excludes Rabobank, for example), but do let me know if I have missed any important ones.
* If you follow the link and look at the picture, please read the comment about the somewhat misleading use of circles in the chart!
UPDATE: Thanks to BC for pointing out that I completely forgot about Canadian banks! I have updated the chart, which now includes Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion and Bank of Novia Scotia. These three have pushed ING, Deutsche Bank and Nordea from the top 25. The original chart is available here. If you know of any other big banks I have omitted, please let me know!