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TheStreet Open House

Bank of America Alums Eye Bank IPO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- North American Financial Holdings (NAFH), a bank holding company run by former Bank of America (BAC)executives, is eyeing an initial public offering, and has hired Bank of America, Goldman Sachs (GS) and Credit Suisse (CS) to advise on the deal.

NAFH, set up two years ago to invest in troubled banks, would be just the third IPO of a bank since 2009, according to data provider Dealogic. The other two were BankUnited Financial (BKUNA), a private-equity-led turnaround of the failed Florida bank, and First Interstate (FIBK), a Montana-based family-owned institution set up in 1968.

NAFH was part of a flurry of so-called "blind pools," designed to overcome regulatory resistance to "fast money" from hedge funds and private equity firms seeking to enter the banking sector. Eleven of these were raised in the wake of the crisis, and they typically promise investors the ability to exit through an IPO, as NAFH did, says one person who saw the offering memorandum when the fund was raised last year.

Bond Street Holdings, another blind pool similar to NAFH, announced its intention to go public via an S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May.

SJB Escrow Corp, set up by real estate magnate and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, hasn't bought a bank and may end up returning money to investors, including hedge funds Greenlight Capital, Maverick Capital and Elliot Management, TheStreet reported Tuesday.

NAFH, by contrast, has acquired six banks and invested 85% of the capital it raised. NAFH CFO Christopher Marshall declined to comment, as did a Credit Suisse spokesman. Spokespeople for Bank of America and Goldman Sachs did not respond to questions.

Douglas Woodcock, head of equity capital markets at D.A. Davidson & Co., which was one of the underwriters of the First Interstate deal, believes the market is selectively open for bank IPOs. Woodcock says he is aware of "at least a couple" other bank IPOs in the pipeline, which he declined to name, though he said he was not aware of NAFH, and the ones he is aware of are not private equity owned.

"For a select group of banks there's actually an opportunity to go public, but I don't see a tidal wave of IPOs by any means," he says.

Anton Schutz, portfolio manager at Mendon Capital, says the BankUnited deal "opens the door," for potential bank IPOs, and says he is familiar with Bond Street, run by former North Fork CFO Dan Healy.

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