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Regional Banks May Follow Cullen/Frost's Investor-Friendly Deal

Harralson on Thursday said it was "surprising to us that CFR would repurchase at this level, with the stock at two times tangible book value and 15 times next year's earnings." He also estimated that the preferred issuance and common share repurchase will be "less than 1% accretive to 2014 EPS" and will increase the company's return on tangible common equity by about 50 basis points in 2014. Cullen/Frost reported a return on average equity of 10.03% for 2012.

When considering which other small-cap and mid-cap companies might consider issuing perpetual preferred shares in order to fund common-share buybacks and lower their cost of capital, Harralson wrote that "although we feel buying back stock at two times tangible book value is not always a good thing, we are generally favorable on this type of transaction, as it provides a meaningful boost to both [return on tangible common equity] and EPS."

Here are five possible candidates for similar transactions, which KBW's analysts say "have the size to issue non-cumulative preferred," shares, while also having high Tier 1 common equity ratios:
  • Bank of Hawaii(BOH) of Honolulu. The shares closed at $49.14 Wednesday, trading for 2.2 times tangible book value, and for 14.1 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $3.47.

    KBW analyst Jacquelynne Chimera said in a report on Thursday that "we do not see BOH as likely for this transaction, although its non-common Tier 1 slug is not filled out as of yet." This means the company can still issue trust preferred shares and have them count toward Tier 1 common equity.

    Chimera also said Bank of Hawaii's capital level is "healthy" and that she expects the company to "continue paying out 75% to 100% of net income to shareholders." The bank pays a quarterly dividend of $0.45, for an attractive yield of 3.66%.
  • Bok Financial(BOKF) of Tulsa, Okla. The shares closed at $57.90 Wednesday, trading for 1.5 times tangible book value, and for 12.5 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $4.62.

    KBW analyst Brady Gailey in a report Thursday called the company "another high-quality bank with significant Tier 1 common that could consider such an optimizing transaction," and added that "with its relatively cheaper-on-book stock price at 1.5 times, the deal would by 2% accretive to EPS."

    On the other hand, "BOKF is also sensitive to taking away float from its relatively thinly traded shares and has historically not been active repurchasing its stock at today's high $50 per share level," according to Gailey.
  • Commerce Bancshares(CBSH - Get Report) of Kansas City, Mo. The stock closed at $38.77 Wednesday and traded for 1.7 times tangible book value, and for 13.2 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $2.94.

    KBW analyst Christopher McGratty on Thursday wrote that a transaction similar to Cullen/Frost's "could look good on paper, but management prides itself on the transparency of its all-common capital base and has never had non-common capital."
  • Hancock Holding Co.(HBHC) of Gulfport, Miss. The shares on Wednesday closed at $31.61, trading for 1.6 times tangible book value, and for 12.1 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $2.62.

    According to Harralson, the company "is perhaps the best positioned to execute a CFR-like transaction -- especially given the relative valuation of the shares." The analyst also thinks that Hancock could wait for an acquisition opportunity to issue preferred shares.
  • Signature Bank(SBNY - Get Report) of New York. The bank's shares closed at $76.15 Wednesday, trading for 2.2 times tangible book value, and for 15.8 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $4.82.

    McGratty wrote that "while Signature looks like a candidate on paper, SBNY is a growth company that has never paid a dividend, let alone repurchased shares."

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>Contact by Email.

Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.
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