Why FCB and Other Midcap Banks Could Go Into Play

Mid-cap banks will be both buyers and sellers in the months to come because they face technology challenges at the same time that their larger rivals are hamstrung in their dealmaking capabilities, according to analysts, some of whom identify FCB Financial (FCB) as the most likely target thanks to its size and assets.

Both Stephen Scouten of Sandler O'Neill & Partners and Dave Rochester of Deutsche Bank singled out Weston, Fla.-based FCB on those grounds.

"FCB would be perfect for BB&T Corp. (BBT) ," Scouten said, noting that the Winston-Salem, N.C., bank holding company, a spirited dealmaker with money still to spend, could go after something the size of FCB and not arouse antitrust issues. "BB&T will continue to be active longer term."

According to Scouten, FCB could attract $39 per share to $41 per share, or $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion based on shares outstanding. FCB is currently trading around $36, and Scouten feels the offer would have to be $3 per share to $5 per share premium to that for FCB to consider a deal.

Officials from both FCB and BB&T declined comment. 

May has already been a busy month for small- and mid-cap bank dealmaking. Simmons First National (SFNC) announced that it would acquire Citizens National Bancorp for $77 million on May 18, and Sunshine Bancorp announced it would acquire Florida Bank of Commerce for $40 million on May 10.

"The M&A activity in the banking sector is the continuation of a long-term trend that has been in place since the 1980s," analyst Gerard Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets said in a phone interview. "It has peaks and valleys. We're heading back into a peak period."

Three major factors are making it harder for banks to do deals, including low interest rates, increased regulatory costs and the high price tag of implementing a mobile platform, he explained.

"Traditionally big banks have not had the greatest customer service when it comes to consumer banking," Cassidy said. "That has been turned on its head since the advent of the mobile channel."

He added that mid-sized and smaller banks have trouble keeping up, as developing apps, software or products that allow a bank to operate on a smartphone or tablet takes both time and money.

Since the advent of the smartphone, Cassidy goes on, these banks have had to consider M&A in the shorter term.

Meanwhile, government regulations make it hard for large-cap banks to do deals. 

"Big banks have a lot of difficulty selling out because the government has this Too Big To Fail theory," noted analyst Dick Bove of Rafferty Capital. "It's going to block large mergers."

So mid- and small-cap banks know that it's not only in their best interest to stick together, but that the current environment is quite conducive to it.

"Valuations are up to reasonable levels," said Sandler O'Neill's Scouten. "M&A conversations are active."

He identified several other potential targets and what they could sell for based on a reasonable take-out multiple of tangible book value per share, as well as price to earnings. 

For example, Scouten believes that Elkin, N.C.-based Yadkin Financial (YDKN) , which operates in North Carolina, could go for around $1.4 billion, or $28 to $32 per share, based on shares outstanding.

Florida-based Stonegate Bank, selling at $31.26 midday Wednesday, could fetch $434 million, or $34 to $36 per share based on his model.

Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida (SBCF) , based in Stuart, Fla., and with operations throughout Florida, could go for $678 million, with Scouten valuing it at between $18 and $20 per share, thanks to activism and board control issues.

Atlanta-based State Bank Financial (STBZ) , which operates throughout Georgia, could attract $811 million, based on a $22 per share price target, although Scouten noted that valuing this bank "is tough."

TCF Financial (TCB) , based in Wayzata, Minn., could also be of interest to buyers because of its ability to grow loans by 20% and its chairman is set to retire next year, according to Deutsche Bank's Rochester.

Officials at Yadkin and Seacoast couldn't be reached. Stonegate and State Bank executives declined comment.

As far as potential buyers, Scouten pointed to Colombia, S.C.-based South State Corp. (SSB) , which operates in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. South State is one of the banks in his coverage universe that has doneg several deals lately, and Scouten believes this trend will continue.

Rochester thinks metropolitan New York-based New York Community Bank NYCB could be an acquirer, citing a need to boost earnings power. NYCB already has an acquisition of Astoria Financial Corp. pending and is waiting for the Federal Trade Commission to approve the deal.

South State and NYCB officials declined comment.

Other banks, too, are likely considering whether they want to be bought or go on the hunt, since the times really demand such contemplation.

Said Rafferty Capital's Bove: "If you're a small or midsize and the economy is flatlining, which it's doing right now, the only way to increase earnings is to lower your cost of operations." 

This article was originally published on TheDeal.com, a sister publication of TheStreet. To learn more about The Deal click here.

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