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Cramer: The Next Bank of America?

Friday, 12 Jun 2009 | 6:27 PM ET

Now that Bank of America has moved beyond mere investment speculation, proving itself a great way to play housing’s bottom and the financials’ full return, Cramer needed a similar trade with a bit more risk-reward. He thinks he found it in Huntington Bancshares.

Banks able to escape the worst-case scenario, being eaten from the inside by bad loans, offer tremendous upside right now. It wasn’t that long ago that many on Wall Street thought the might Bank of America was destined for nationalization, so an even darker fate was assumed for its smaller, regional cousins. But they, too, are starting to emerge from the doldrums, making them great prospects for speculation.

Huntington , which operates over 600 branches in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, was one bank that Cramer thought wouldn’t make it. He wasn’t alone. A lot of people focused only on the company’s need to raise capital to cover losses, correctly predicting a coming secondary offering that inevitably would dilute the stock’s value. The secondary would also sink the earnings estimates, again hurting the share price.

Sepculating HBN
Why it's smart to look at Huntington Bancshares now, with Mad Money host Jim Cramer.

Good news, though: Goldman Sachs on Thursday upgraded Huntington Bancshares, to “hold” from “sell,” on the premise that this is no longer a concern. Huntington last week raised $324 million at $3.60 a share in a secondary that Cramer said made money for everyone involved. Now the bank’s tangible common equity ratio – the most stringent measure of a bank’s regulatory capital and its ability to absorb losses – is up to 6.1% from 4.7% to 6.1%, better than the 5.6% average of its peers.

This is key because both analyst and investors can now evaluate HBAN based on earnings, which is just how it should be. The questionable effects of capital raising had prevented that, but things now seem OK. That, Cramer said, was Goldman’s point with the upgrade.

There are other positives here as well, namely those brought on by new CEO Stephen Steinour, who took over in January. He has pushed through $100 million in savings and cut the dividend to preserve capital. (Remember, this is a spec stock, so the yield doesn’t matter.) Steinour has also started buying HBAN shares – 555,555 in the secondary – and other insiders are doing the same. That should instill some confidence in investors who are considering this stock.

The bottom line? Cramer doubt’s Goldman’s upgrade will be the last. So those that come next should push this $4 name higher.

Cramer's charitable trust owns Bank of America.

Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

Questions for Cramer? madmoney@cnbc.com

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