By Amanda Alix | September 17, 2012
For well-nigh 20 years now, the Motley Fool has been here to help you invest better and smarter, using spot-on analysis and a razor-sharp wit. To celebrate Worldwide Invest Better Day on September 25, we are taking some time to get back to the basics -- of investing, that is. In that spirit, I have rounded up some sweet financial sector stocks that have been showing some real sparkle and promise lately.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the focus of this particular article: Ambitious regional M&T Bank (NYSE - MTB).
M&T stands for Manufacturers and Traders Bank, and is headquartered in Buffalo, New York. A series of mergers and acquisitions have made the bank what it is today, a bank with a market cap of $12 billion. This bank, like many regionals, is enjoying some investor love these days, as many become more concerned about the scandals attached to the big banks -- as well as these banks' balance sheets, since they are constantly writing checks to cover this or that settlement to pay for their latest transgressions.
The big news for M&T lately is its acquisition of Hudson City Bancshares (Nasdaq - HCBK) last month. Despite the fact that Hudson City was in a bit of a muddle, having revamped its balance sheet twice in the recent past, M&T got a pretty good deal at 77% of book value and expects the newbie to be immediately accretive to value.
M&T has a very active loan department, unlike most of the biggest banks these days. Recently, Barron's took a look at the regional banks most likely to see loan growth and increased fee income. M&T, BB&T (NYSE - BBT), Fifth Third, Regions Financial (NYSE - RF), and SunTrust (NYSE - STI) all expect to see increased activity in this regard, noting heightened refinance activity and/or increases in commercial loans. Indeed, M&T was recently given kudos for being one of the top lenders in the U.S. Small Business Administration program, writing 37% of all loans through August 31 of this year.
M&T recently paid out a juicy $0.70 per share dividend, which is unchanged since 2008. The recent acquisition of Hudson City will swell M&T's branch presence by 135 locations, an issue that is still very important to customers. As the big banks watch their loan activity contract, regionals like M&T are picking up the slack, and making money doing so -- which is always good news to investors.
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