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LexinFintech Holdings: All Eyes On Regulatory Risks (NASDAQ:LX)

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Elevator Pitch

I assign a Neutral rating to Chinese online consumer finance company LexinFintech Holdings Ltd. (LX).

LexinFintech is differentiated from most of its online consumer finance peers in multiple ways, such as its customer base, consumption focus, funding sources, and proprietary technologies. However, the interest rate cap on consumer lending in China has been lowered, which could potentially hurt LexinFintech’s profitability, and this brings regulatory risks for the company and its peers into the spotlight. LexinFintech trades at 10.7 times consensus forward FY 2020 P/E and 4.0 times consensus forward FY 2021 P/E.

Company Description

Established in October 2013 and listed in December 2017, LexinFintech refers to itself as a “leading online consumption and consumer finance platform for new generation consumers in China” offering various services, including “financial technology services, membership benefits, and a point redemption system through its ecommerce platform Fenqile and membership platform Le Card,in its press releases.

Business Overview And Key Metrics

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

The company is differentiated from most of its online consumer finance peers in multiple ways, which is discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections of this article.

Targeting Young Adults

LexinFintech targets young adults in China, more specifically, students studying at tertiary institutions, recent graduates or those who recently entered the workplace.

As of June 30, 2020, the company has 95.3 million registered users, of which 22.7 million users have a credit line, and 6.8 million of them are active users. Active users are “users who made at least one transaction during that period through our platform or through our third party partners’ platforms using credit line granted by us,” as defined by LexinFintech.

It is noteworthy that the average age of LexinFintech’s customers is 25 years old as of end-2Q 2020. Arguably, young adults are the best customers that online consumer finance companies can have, since they are the stage of their lives where they will be spending a lot (yet do not have the income to match that) and need to maintain a good credit rating (i.e., no defaults) for future borrowings.

At the business update call on September 16, 2020, LexinFintech stressed that its customers “are fundamentally different” and “younger”, and “we typically offer better credit limits, higher amounts to these customers.” The company’s average credit limit for customers in the second quarter of 2020 was a relatively high RMB10,000.

A Diverse Range Of Products Focused On Consumption

LexinFintech offers a diverse range of products focused on consumption, and this is closely linked to the company’s customer base comprising mainly of young adults who have a strong desire to spend.

Rather than simply offering loans and credit, it has an e-commerce platform (Gross Merchandise Value of RMB2.6 billion in 1H 2020) and mobile app called Fenqile which offers various products for sale which can be paid in installments. In addition, the company has a two million-strong membership base (membership fees are another source of revenue), and its virtual credit card Lehua Card which contributed RMB22.2 billion in loan originations (or close to 30% of total loan originations) in the first half of this year.

LexinFintech’s Products And How They Are Linked To Daily Consumption Activities

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

LexinFintech noted at the 2Q 2020 earnings call on August 18, 2020 that its consumption-focused product strategy is to cover “all the consumption scenarios is that it enables us to literally see how our customers eat, sleep, live” with the aim of improving “the stickiness of the customers.” The company also emphasized at the earnings call that there is still room for growth in terms of providing more products and services focused on consumption, as “the amounts that we can provide financial services to is probably limited at this point to just over 20%” of its 95.3 million registered users.

Relatively Low Funding Cost Relying On Institutional Funding

LexinFintech’s funding cost has been declining over the past few years, and it reached a new record low of 7.7% in 2Q 2020. This is mainly attributable to the fact that it is able to access relatively cheaper wholesale funding from institutions such as banks and insurance companies with its micro-finance license. In contrast, most peer-to-peer lenders are reliant on more expensive funding from individuals. Also, LexinFintech has continued to optimize its funding mix over the years. While the company used to source two-thirds of its funds from individuals in 2016, institutions now contribute substantially all of its funding.

Funding Cost

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

Funding Source

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

Looking ahead, LexinFintech guided at its recent 2Q 2020 earnings call that it expects its funding cost to continue to decline going forward, but the pace of decline might slow in the near term, as “we certainly already have one of the better funding costs and better deals from the banks out there.”

Proprietary Technologies

In a recent book on the Chinese fintech sector published by Columbia Business School in August 2020 titled “China’s Fintech Explosion”, authors Sara Hsu and Jianjun Li make special mention of LexinFintech. In the book, it is noted that the company “uses proprietary technology to trace back bad credit and identify risks” and artificial intelligence “helps firm managers assess risks properly using location information and social network activity as fraudulent users tend to congregate.”

Company’s Credit Risk Management And Credit Approval System Referred To As Hawkeye Engine

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

Company’s Funding And Capital Allocation System Known As Wormhole

(Source: LexinFintech’s September 2020 Investor Presentation Slides)

The numbers speak for themselves. Hawkeye Engine, LexinFintech’s credit risk management & credit approval system, processes 99.8% of loan applications automatically, while Wormhole, its funding & capital allocation system, boasts a 93% success rate with respect to matching of funds.

Regulatory Risks And Interest Rate Cap In The Spotlight

Similar to many online consumer finance companies operating in different parts of the world, LexinFintech faces significant regulatory risks in its home market, China. A recent Bloomberg report on interest rate caps in China has brought regulatory risks for LexinFintech and its peers into the spotlight again.

Bloomberg reported on September 6, 2020 that China’s Supreme Court has issued a new interest rate cap on consumer lending equivalent to “four times the benchmark Loan Prime Rate,” or approximately 15.4%, as compared to “a range of 24% to 36% under a previous judicial interpretation in 2015.” It is uncertain if this new interest rate cap, which will hurt the profitability of lenders, will be applicable to online consumer finance companies such as LexinFintech.

Specifically, online consumer finance companies could face issues with charging overdue fees. Overdue fees have been an effective deterrent against late payment in the past, when overdue fees were charged at significantly higher rate compared with existing lending rates. This might not be possible going forward given the narrow difference between online consumer finance companies’ average lending rates and the new interest rate cap.

In response, LexinFintech organized a business update call for analysts and investors on September 16, 2020 to address such concerns.

At the call, LexinFintech highlighted that its current numbers are below the new interest rate cap. The company’s average interest rates were 13.6% and 14.5% for 1Q 2020 and 2Q 2020, respectively, based on the court’s definition of nominal Annual Percentage Rate, or APR. LexinFintech stressed that “we don’t see any particularly significant impact from this (new interest rate cap),” and “we are pretty confident in terms of our ability” to meet “the financial goals for this year.”

However, the company did acknowledge that it needed to make changes to certain products with higher rates, and it also mentioned that fee-based income (e.g. membership fees) could help to offset some of the negative impact of reduced rates.

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that LexinFintech noted at its recent call on September 16, 2020 that the Supreme Court’s decision to lower the interest rate cap was made with the aim to “lower the cost of funding for the society as a whole.” This suggests that the Chinese authorities are determined to lower interest costs to boost consumer spending and economic growth, and online finance companies such as LexinFintech could be subject to further regulatory risks going forward.

Valuation And Risk Factors

LexinFintech trades at consensus forward FY 2020 and FY 2021 P/E multiples of 10.7 times and 4.0 times, respectively. Sell-side analysts expect the company to achieve ROEs of 16.8% and 32.1% for FY 2020 and FY 2021, respectively.

As per the peer valuation comparison, LexinFintech is the most expensive among its peers based on consensus forward FY 2021 P/E, but this is justified by the company’s high consensus forward ROE of 32.1% for FY 2021 and its differentiating factors highlighted above.

Peer Valuation Comparison For LexinFintech

Stock Consensus Current Year P/E Consensus Forward One-Year P/E Consensus Current Year ROE Consensus Forward One-Year ROE
Yiren Digital (YRD) 5.1 3.7 10.6% 12.1%
Qudian (QD) 30.7 2.9 0.7% 6.7%
FinVolution Group (FINV) 2.8 2.9 18.4% 15.5%
360 DigiTech (QFIN) 4.3 2.9 33.9% 30.2%
Jianpu Technology (JT) 3.2 1.1 17.4% 31.1%

(Source: Author)

The key risk factors for LexinFintech are weaker-than-expected economic growth in China leading to lower-than-expected consumption demand, and new regulations which are negative for the Chinese online consumer finance sector, such as the recent lowering of the interest rate cap.

Asia Value & Moat Stocks is a research service for value investors seeking value stocks with a huge gap between price and intrinsic value, leaning towards deep value balance sheet bargains (i.e. buying assets at a discount e.g. net cash stocks, net-nets, low P/B stocks, sum-of-the-parts discounts) and wide moat stocks (i.e. buying earnings power at a discount in great companies like “Magic Formula” stocks, high-quality businesses, hidden champions and wide moat compounders). Sign up here to get started today!

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.



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Bad Credit

Home Equity Loan With Bad Credit: Can It Be Done?

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Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we receive compensation from our partner lenders, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS # 1681276, is referred to here as “Credible.”

Home equity loans let you turn your equity into cash, which you can use to pay for home improvements, unexpected medical expenses, or any other bills you might be facing.

Generally, lenders require at least a 620 credit score to qualify for a home equity loan. If your score isn’t quite there yet, though, you still have options.

Here’s how you may be able to get a home equity loan with bad credit:

  1. Check your credit and try to improve it
  2. Find out your debt-to-income ratio
  3. Find out how much equity you have
  4. Think about bringing on a cosigner
  5. Shop around for the best rates
  6. Consider alternatives to bad credit home equity loans

1. Check your credit and try to improve it

To start, head to AnnualCreditReport.com and pull your credit. You get one free report from all three credit bureaus per year.

Once you have your credit report, check it for errors and evidence of identity theft, such as accounts you don’t recognize and credit cards that aren’t yours. Reporting these to the credit bureau can help improve your score. So can taking these steps:

  • Pay all your bills on time: Payment history — or your track record of payments — accounts for 35% of your score, so make it a point to pay all of your bills on time, every time.
  • Pay down your debts: Lenders want to see a credit utilization rate of 30% or less — meaning your balances account for 30% or less than your total available credit.
  • Keep credit cards open: How long your accounts have been open impacts 15% of your credit score, so avoid closing accounts — even once you’ve paid them off.
  • Avoid applying for new cards: This will result in hard credit inquiries, which can hurt your score.

Learn More: How Your Credit Score Impacts Mortgage Rates

2. Find out your debt-to-income ratio

Lenders will also consider your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when you apply for a home equity loan. This indicates how much of your monthly income goes toward paying off debt.

How to calculate DTI: Add up your monthly bills and loan/credit card payments, and divide the total by your monthly income. Multiply that amount by 100.

For example, if you have $2,000 in debt payments and make $6,000 per month, your DTI would be 33% ($2,000 / $6,000 x 100).

Most lenders want a DTI of 43% or lower. A low DTI can help improve your chances of getting a loan, especially if you have a lower credit score, since it indicates less risk for the borrower.

3. Find out how much equity you have

How much equity you have in your home, as well as your loan-to-value ratio, will determine whether you qualify for a home equity loan — and how much you can borrow. To find out yours, you’ll need to get an appraisal, which is a professional evaluation of your home’s value. The national average cost of a home appraisal is $400, according to home remodeling site Fixr.

Once the appraisal is finished, you can calculate your loan-to-value ratio by dividing your outstanding mortgage loan balance by your home’s value.

For example: If you have $100,000 remaining on your home, and the appraisal determines it’s worth $200,000, then you have an LTV of 50% ($100,000 / $200,000). This also means you have 50% equity in the home.

Most lenders will only allow you to have a combined LTV of 85% — meaning your existing loan, plus your new home equity loan can’t equal more than 85% of your home’s value.

In this example, you’d be able to borrow $170,000 (85% of $200,000) across both your initial mortgage loan and your new home equity loan. Since your existing loan still has $100,000 on it, that’d mean you could take out a home equity loan of up to $70,000.

4. Think about bringing on a cosigner

Bringing in a family member or friend with excellent credit to cosign your bad credit loan can help your case, too. If you do go this route, make sure they understand what it means for their finances. Though you may not intend for them to make payments, they’re just as responsible for the loan as you.

Tip: If you fail to repay the loan as agreed, it could hurt the other individual’s credit score or result in collections against both of you. Make sure you’re upfront and transparent about what cosigning your loan may mean for them.

5. Shop around for the best rates

A lower credit score will typically mean a higher interest rate, so it’s incredibly important you shop around and compare your options before moving forward. Get rate quotes from at least three to five lenders, and make sure to compare each loan estimate line by line, as fees and closing costs can vary, too.

Credible makes comparing rates easy. While Credible doesn’t offer rates for home equity loans, you can get quotes for a cash-out refinance — another strategy for tapping your home equity. Get prequalified in just three minutes.

Get the cash you need and the rate you deserve

  • Compare lenders
  • Get cash out to pay off high-interest debt
  • Prequalify in just 3 minutes

Find My Loan
No annoying calls or emails from lenders!

6. Consider alternatives to bad credit home equity loans

A bad credit score can make it hard to get a home equity loan — especially one with a low interest rate. If you’re finding it difficult to qualify for an affordable one, you might consider one of these alternatives:

Cash-out refinance

Cash-out refinances replace your existing mortgage loan with a new, higher balance one. You then get the difference between the two balances in cash.

Find Out: Credit Score Needed to Refinance Your Home

Personal loans

Personal loans offer fast funding, and you don’t need collateral either. Rates can be a bit higher than on home equity loans and refinances, though, so it’s even more important to shop around. A tool like Credible can help here.

Check Out: Home Equity Loan or Personal Loan: How to Choose the Best Option

Compare multiple lenders

If you have bad credit, there are still ways to tap your home equity or borrow cash if you need it. Head to Credible to see what personal loan options and mortgage refinance rates you might qualify for. With Credible, you can easily compare prequalified rates from all of our partner lenders without leaving our platform.

About the author

Aly J. Yale

Aly J. Yale

Aly J. Yale is a mortgage and real estate authority and a contributor to Credible. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Fox Business, The Motley Fool, Bankrate, The Balance, and more.

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A Look Back At Housing 2020: Rental Housing Gets Riskier

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According to the American Housing Survey cited in a recent article, there are about 48 million rental housing units in the United States ranging from single-family homes to large multifamily apartment complexes. Of those 48 million units about 23 million are owned by individuals, according to a recent Rental Housing Finance Survey; that’s more than half of the occupied units in the country. Yet private rental housing providers have been under relentless attack in recent years increasing risks and costs. This has worsened in 2020 as I have pointed out. More risk means fewer housing units and higher prices, not a good outlook for the future.

Any business based on renting assets is based on risk. Think about the last time you went bowling. When you rent the shoes, the person behind the counter often will hold a driver’s license? Why? It’s a way of offsetting the risk that you’ll go home with the shoes either on purpose or accidentally. Nobody wants to deal with a lost driver’s license. Offsetting this risk has absolutely nothing to do with you or your trustworthiness; it is uniformly applied and routine.

Housing providers have to similarly offset the risk of allowing a stranger occupy their private property. There are several ways of doing this, including using credit checks. But lately, politicians are beginning to eliminate the credit check from the tools that housing providers can use to offset risk. Minneapolis for example has eliminated credit checks arguing that they are a “barrier” to housing.

Is race a factor in bad credit and thus a barrier to people of color to get housing? The fact is, yes, African American people have more credit issues. But would eliminating credit checks help them? The answer is, “No.”

An article in the Washington Post, “Credit scores are supposed to be race-neutral. That’s impossible,” is emblematic of how this issue plays among the public and policy makers. The author says two contradictory things. First,

“This would lead one to think that credit-score calculations can’t be biased. But factors that are included or excluded in the algorithms used to create a credit score can have the same effect as lending decisions made by prejudiced White loan officers.”

Then she writes,

“One quick way to impact your credit history is a court-ordered judgment. And Black borrowers are more likely to fare badly when taken to court by their creditors. Debt-collection lawsuits that end in default judgments also disproportionately go against Blacks, according to a 2020 Pew Charitable Trusts report.”

Logically, the right way to state this is that credit measures are biased against people who have default judgments against them, and African Americans have higher rates of defaults. Then the next question would be, “Why?” The most obvious answer is the right one, poverty is disproportionately concentrated among people of color.

But eliminating credit checks for housing won’t help that problem. If a housing provider is unable to evaluate risk based on past financial performance her only option will be to raise rents and deposit amounts in case there is a problem; that extra cash would provide a buffer if a resident stops paying rent. This won’t help anyone with less money. What’s the response to that? Ban rent increases by imposing rent control! That’s a bad idea too and won’t help either.

The answer is to figure out how people who have less money and therefore have more issues making ends meet can solve that problem and improve their credit scores. The author of the Washington Post article makes a sensible suggestion: include steady rent payments in credit scores. Some housing providers do, and it’s a great idea. But it is a positive one that actually helps the family; banning quantitative measures of past financial performance doesn’t.

The danger that unfolded in 2020 is that justifiable outrage about racism could lead to interventions that don’t address poverty and it’s negative consequences like default judgments but elimination of accepted measures of those consequences. Eliminating the evidence of poverty – struggling to pay bills – doesn’t help pay the bills! At best, these kinds of measures sweep the problem under the rug ensuring higher rents and making housing a risky business only big corporations will be able to do.

The answer is to address the broader underlying issues of poverty and increasing housing production. When there is more supply of housing providers compete with providers for residents and will be forced to bargain with potential residents, even those with dings or dents or completely destroyed credit. Housing abundance solves a housing problem while eliminating measure of risk only makes that risk higher and actually creates a housing problem.

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Can My Cosigner Take My Car?

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Cosigners don’t get any rights to the vehicle they signed the loan for. However, if the cosigner is trying to take your car, it may be time to take some action.

Cosigners and Ownership

Can My Cosigner Take My Car?Cosigners can’t take the vehicle they cosigned for because their name isn’t listed on the title. A cosigner isn’t responsible for making the monthly payments, maintaining car insurance, or really anything else. Cosigners simply lend you their good credit score to help you get approved for the auto loan, and if you can’t make payments, the lender can require them to pick up the slack.

Since you’re the primary borrower on the vehicle and your name is listed on the car’s title, you have ownership rights. Your cosigner can’t come to your residence and take possession of the vehicle – even if they’re the one making the car payments right now.

If you do default on the loan and the vehicle is repossessed, the cosigner still can’t take the car.

But My Cosigner Did Take My Car!

If your cosigner did somehow take your keys and your vehicle without permission, it’s considered theft. If you want to take action, you can report the car as stolen.

However, a better first step is probably contacting the cosigner and letting them know that they don’t have any ownership rights (if you want to maintain a relationship with them). You can ask them to return the vehicle and explain that their name isn’t on the title.

Removing a Cosigner From a Car Loan

If things are dicey with your cosigner, then it may be time to consider removing them from the auto loan. The easiest way to remove a cosigner is by refinancing.

Refinancing is when you replace your current loan with another one. You can work with your current lender or another one, but most borrowers look for another lender to refinance with.

You don’t need a perfect credit score to refinance your car loan – it just has to be good or better than it was when you first got the loan. Another common requirement of refinancing is that you’ve had the loan for at least one year.

Other common requirements for refinancing are:

  • You’ve stayed current on payments throughout the loan
  • You have equity or your loan balance is equal to the vehicle’s value
  • Your car has less than 100,000 miles and is less than 10 years old

Most borrowers usually refinance to lower their loan payments. Since you’re replacing your current auto loan with another one, many borrowers try to qualify for lower interest rates or extend their loan to lower their payments. If your credit score has improved, you may even be able to get a better interest rate and remove your cosigner!

Can’t Refinance to Remove the Cosigner?

Refinancing isn’t in the cards for everyone. However, another efficient way to remove a cosigner is by selling the car. Cosigners don’t have to be present at the sale of the vehicle, since they don’t have to sign the title to transfer ownership.

If you sell the car and get an offer large enough to cover the entire balance of your loan, you and the cosigner can walk away from the auto loan scot-free.

However, many borrowers need cosigners because their credit score isn’t the best. If you want to sell your vehicle to remove your cosigner, but you’re worried you can’t get a car loan by yourself, consider a subprime auto loan for your next vehicle.

Bad Credit Auto Loans

Since many traditional car lenders don’t work with borrowers who have poor credit histories or lower credit scores, they often ask them to bring a cosigner. But what if you don’t want a cosigner (or can’t get one) on your next auto loan? Enter subprime car loans.

Subprime lenders are teamed up with special finance dealerships, and they operate remotely. When you apply for financing with a special finance dealer, you work with the special finance manager who acts as the middleman between you and the lender.

You need documents to prove you’re ready to take on an auto loan – typical things like check stubs, proof of residency, valid driver’s license, a down payment, and other assorted items depending on your credit situation. If you qualify, the lender determines what your maximum car payment can be, and you choose a vehicle you qualify for from there.

What sets subprime auto loans apart from traditional car loans is that they assist borrowers in tough credit situations and offer the opportunity for credit repair. Some in-house financing dealerships that don’t check credit reports don’t report their auto loans, which means your timely payments don’t improve your credit score.

Finding a Car Dealership Near You

The best way to improve your credit score is by paying all your bills on time. Payment history is the most influential piece of the credit score pie. There are many lenders willing to work with bad credit borrowers, you just have to know where to look!

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve already done the searching, and we’ve created a nationwide network of dealers that are signed up with subprime lenders. Get matched to a dealership in your area, with no cost and no obligation, by filling out our car loan request form.

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