NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- While the pace of bank failures slowed during 2011, there remains a bountiful supply of troubled institutions heading toward oblivion, which means continued opportunities for acquirers and their investors to see major gains. During 2011, there have been "only" 92 bank failures, but 2012 should be another banner year for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., since there were over 150 institutions on TheStreet's third-quarter Bank Watch List of undercapitalized institutions. The largest bank or thrift to fail during 2011 was Superior Bank of Birmingham, Ala., which had $3 billion in total assets when it was shuttered by the Office of Thrift Supervision in April. The failed thrift was taken over by the newly chartered Superior Bank, NA, which is a subsidiary of the privately held Community Bancorp LLC of Houston, Texas. The second-largest 2011 failure with $2.3 billion in total assets was First Community Bank of Taos, N.M., which was shuttered by state regulators in January and sold by the FDIC to U.S. Bancorp ( USB). While this was a relatively small deal for U.S. Bancorp, the acquirer reported a tidy $46 million gain on the government-assisted purchase.
Georgia leads the way
After falling into second place in 2010, Georgia once again took the lead among all states with 23 bank failures in 2011, followed by 13 for Florida and nine failures in Illinois. Georgia's banks continue to pay the price for the exuberant pop in the housing market in the Atlanta suburbs leading into 2007, during which a slew of new banks were organized. SNL Financial reported that in 2011, four of the failed Georgia banks were five years old, or even younger. The largest Georgia bank to fail during 2011 was The Park Avenue Bank, which had $953 million in total assets when it was shuttered by state regulators in April. The bank was then sold by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to Bank of the Ozarks ( OZRK) of Little Rock, Ark.,
How failures benefit investors
In the weeks (or months) leading up to a bank failure, the FDIC peddles the failing institution to stronger local competitors or out-of-market players looking to expand. The FDIC will often agree to cover 80% of losses on a significant portion of a failed bank's assets acquired by the winning bidder. In some failed-bank deals, the winning bidder cherry-picks desired assets, leaving the bitter dregs for the FDIC to resolve later.