NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BB&T Corporation (BBT) , North Carolina's second-largest bank, announced Wednesday it has agreed to buy Susquehanna Bancshares (SUSQ) , headquartered in Pennsylvania, for $2.5 billion. But Wall Street isn't pleased about BB&T's growth-at-all-cost strategy.
And BB&T investors are not welcoming the news either. As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, BB&T stock is down 2.17% to $37.50. That's a rebound from its intraday decline of 3.2% to $37.10. Meanwhile, Susquehanna shares are up 32.8% to $13.15.
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The deal, which will be financed with cash and stock, continues BB&T's expansion shopping spree. But to what extent can BB&T -- which competes with other regional banks like SunTrust (STI) and Fifth Third (FITB) -- benefit from this deal and others it has made?
To grow its footprint in Texas, BB&T announced on Sept. 3 that it had acquired 41 retail branches from Citigroup (C) . Texas has been an important growth area for many banks, not just BB&T. And the deal elevated BB&T to one of the largest banks in Texas with more than $5 billion in deposits.
Soon afterward, BB&T picked off Bank of Kentucky (BKYF) , paying a 28% premium to the bank's most recent closing price. It was an expensive deal, given that Bank of Kentucky is relatively small, with total deposits of $1.6 billion. At the time of the announcement, Bank of Kentucky's total deposits were just 3.5% of BB&T total deposits of $45.7 billion. The deal elevated BB&T to the No. 2 bank in Kentucky.
Despite having a high analyst 12-month price target of $45, according to CNN Money, BB&T shares will need to break their 2014 high of $41.06 before the stock becomes a buy. The shares have a low 12-month analyst target of $35. In other words, investors need to show more conviction in the company's growth strategy before the stock is attractive.
This is because, as Wall Street's reaction to this deal suggests, BB&T stock may be tested further. Part of the reason for the disappointment is that BB&T is paying a 39% premium for Susquehanna, when you factor its closing price of $9.90 Tuesday.
The good news is that BB&T expects to save roughly $160 million annually from this deal. But it will have to first take a $250 million hit in pretax merger and integration costs, which will impact future earnings.
And the damage already shows in the bank's balance sheet, which has ballooned to a net debt position of $22.91 billion -- a large figure, given that SunTrust and Fifth Third, which are of similar sizes, have net debt positions of $10.56 billion and $12.84 billion, respectively.
In that regard, it's best to wait for clearer signs that BB&T can execute its expansion plans in manner that doesn't hurt its bottom line.
At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
TheStreet Ratings team rates BB&T CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate BB&T CORP (BBT) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in stock price during the past year, compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations, expanding profit margins and impressive record of earnings per share growth. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: BBT Ratings Report