Mid-cap banks will be both buyers and sellers in the months to come because they face technology challenges at the same time that their larger rivals are hamstrung in their dealmaking capabilities, according to analysts, some of whom identify FCB Financial (FCB) as the most likely target thanks to its size and assets.
May has already been a busy month for small- and mid-cap bank dealmaking. Simmons First National (SFNC) announced that it would acquire Citizens National Bancorp for $77 million on May 18, and Sunshine Bancorp announced it would acquire Florida Bank of Commerce for $40 million on May 10.
"The M&A activity in the banking sector is the continuation of a long-term trend that has been in place since the 1980s," analyst Gerard Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets said in a phone interview. "It has peaks and valleys. We're heading back into a peak period."
Three major factors are making it harder for banks to do deals, including low interest rates, increased regulatory costs and the high price tag of implementing a mobile platform, he explained.
"Traditionally big banks have not had the greatest customer service when it comes to consumer banking," Cassidy said. "That has been turned on its head since the advent of the mobile channel."
He added that mid-sized and smaller banks have trouble keeping up because developing the apps, software or products that allow a bank to operate on a smartphone or tablet takes both time and money. Since the advent of the smartphone, Cassidy said, these banks have had to consider M&A in the shorter term.
Meanwhile, government regulations make it hard for large-cap banks to do deals.
"Big banks have a lot of difficulty selling out because the government has this 'Too Big to Fail' theory," noted analyst Dick Bove of Rafferty Capital. "It's going to block large mergers."
So mid- and small-cap banks know that not only is it in their best interest to stick together but the current environment is also quite conducive to it.
"Valuations are up to reasonable levels," said Sandler O'Neill's Stephen Scouten. "M&A conversations are active."
Including FCB Financial, bank analysts identified several community banks that could be potential takeout targets. Check out which banks could be sellers and which could be buyers.