Bank M&A Complicated by Failures

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sterling Bancshares ( SBIB) looked to be making a solid decision last August when it entered into an agreement to purchase nearly two dozen branches from First Banks Inc., a privately held bank headquartered in St. Louis.

The deal seemed simple enough. Sterling would acquire 19 branches in its home state of Texas, and the accompanying $500 million in deposits at those branches for a 6% deposit premium, as well as $230 million in selected loans. First Banks would be able to further shore up its capital base and redeploy some to its remaining franchises in California, Florida, Illinois, and Missouri.

But the companies failed to gauge the changes in the M&A environment brought on by the financial crisis, even for a smallish, supposedly straight-forward deal like this one. Regulators are facing a flood of failed banks whose assets need homes, and capital requirements are still in flux. At the time of the announcement, the transaction was expected to close at some point in the fourth quarter, but last week Sterling and First Banks jointly announced its termination because they could not get the necessary regulatory approvals before Dec. 31.

It's a familiar scene. Last year, of the 119 whole bank acquisitions announced, just 60 have been completed so far, according to data provided by SNL Financial. Of a separate 83 branch deals announced, only 48 have gone through. In addition, another 49 whole bank and branch acquisitions were canceled in 2009, SNL says, a figure not reflected in the aforementioned announced deal numbers. Meanwhile, 114 FDIC-assisted transactions were done in the United States in 2009. For comparison, 146 and 287 whole bank acquisitions were completed in 2008 and 2007, respectively, according to SNL, and FDIC-assisted deals totaled 26 in 2008 and just three in 2007.

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