According to Gilbert, New York Community has already made the required systems upgrades that would be needed to comply with annual Federal Reserve stress tests as a SIFI. "The efficiency gains of a larger acquisition could help manage the increased regulatory costs," she said.

"NYCB's lending engine has always outstripped its deposit generation," Gilbert said, adding that the acquisition of deposit sources outside the New York City area should be "a very efficient way" to boost liquidity.

Possible targets for New York Community include Popular, Inc. ( BPOP), of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, First Citizens Bancshares ( FCNCA) of Raleigh, N.C., First Horizon National ( FHN) of Memphis, Tenn., and OneWest Bank of Pasadena, Calif., according to Gilbert. The analyst said that "we have no knowledge of any M&A discussions or negotiations between New York Community and any of these named targets."

OneWest Bank is the former IndyMac Bank, which failed in July 2008, and was then run under FDIC Conservatorship, until being sold to private equity investors in March 2009. "We tend to think OneWest could be the most suitable," Gilbert wrote, because of OneWest's private equity ownership, a similar business model to AmTrust, and "limited competition among other potential buyers."

The Dividend


New York Community Bancorp's shares closed at $13.31 Wednesday. The company pays a quarterly dividend of $0.25 a share, for a yield of 7.51%. That is by far the highest dividend yield among actively traded bank stocks, with average daily trading volume of at least 20,000 shares, according to data supplied by Thomson Reuters Bank Insight.

Please see TheStreet's 10 Buy-Rated Bank Stocks With Highest Dividend Yields for details on other bank stocks with high dividend yields.

The company reported 2012 net income of $501.1 million, or $1.13 a share, increasing from $480.0 million, or $1.09 a share in 2011, so the dividend payout ratio is rather high. Then again, New York Community has managed to maintain the dividend for 36 consecutive quarters, showing that its business was quite stable through the credit crisis, and providing plenty of income for its shareholders.

Some analysts have questioned the company's ability to maintain the dividend, especially if it grows to become a SIFI. Ficalora said during the company's earnings conference call on Jan. 30 that "the idea that we would be governed by what other people can afford to pay is not consistent with anything that has historically happened in the marketplace. We, in fact, have demonstrated very clearly that, during a period of great risk and great loss, that we lose very, very little capital." The CEO stressed that New York Community Bancorp covered any loan losses through the credit crisis "with earnings," and that "our ability to pay out current earnings is significantly better than that of other banks."

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