The following story is the first in a series that highlight investment opportunities among the most strongly capitalized community and regional banks and thrifts with the highest growth prospects. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On Friday nights, half of America is watching football. Meanwhile, bankers are doing deals during those hours, snapping up failed financial institutions, encouraged by the government's generous loss-sharing guarantees. People's United Financial ( PBCT) of Bridgeport, Conn., last month agreed to buy Financial Federal ( FIF), a non-bank equipment-financing company based in New York, for $738 million at a 35% premium. So there are other ways for a strongly capitalized bank to expand. People's United, which had $20.8 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, has weathered the credit crisis, buoyed by good asset quality and minimal loan losses. With a very high tangible common equity ratio of 18.6%, according to SNL Financial, the company is looking to leverage its excess capital in a transaction that People's expects to increase earnings as soon as next year. An analysis by TheStreet.com highlights eight other profitable bank and thrift holding companies that are moving through the credit crisis with low loan losses and enough money to increase their footprint as the country emerges from the worst recession since the 1930s. The strong not only survived, but are getting bigger. We began with a list of 920 publicly traded U.S. bank and thrift holding companies (excluding those traded on the Pink Sheets), for which September financial information was available from third-quarter Federal Reserve or Securities and Exchange Commission filings. (The data were provided by SNL Financial.) We then narrowed the list using the following criteria: tangible common equity ratio above 7%; positive return on assets for the first three quarters of 2009; nonperforming-assets ratio less than 2%; ratio of loans/total assets above 50%; year-to-date net charge-offs of less than 1% of average loans; average trading volume above 50,000 shares a day; any Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has been repaid; total assets over $5 billion.
-- Reported by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.