What Does BankUnited Have That These Banks Want?

Despite a failed courtship earlier this year, BankUnited (NYSE: BKU  ) is once again being pursued by the very institutions that failed to win it over the first time around.

Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE: TD  ) , PNC Financial (NYSE: PNC  ) , and BB&T were all rumored to have been involved in the negotiations brokered by Goldman Sachs this past January, which culminated with an announcement by BankUnited that it had decided to stay single. Now, without actually announcing that it is for sale, BankUnited finds itself looking over bids from TD Bank and BB&T -- though, according to the New York Post, the offers of $25 per share are considered too low.

An amazing success story
BankUnited wasn't always this popular. The financial meltdown plowed the thrift under, until it found new life with private equity firms Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Centerbridge Capital Partners, and WL Ross.

The group of investors paid $925 million for the bank after its seizure by the FDIC, nursing it back to health until its red ink ran black. Of course, the partners had some help: The sale included a commitment by the FDIC to cover approximately 95% of the losses incurred on the bank's stable of residential mortgages, which has translated into a tidy sum of more than $2 billion. In addition, the bank's IPO last year brought in around $900 million, so the investors have done quite well.

The bank is now the second largest in Florida by deposits, and South Florida is experiencing a banking renaissance. In addition to the banking institutions mentioned here, JPMorgan Chase is focusing on increasing its presence in that part of the state by opening more branch locations. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) is the frontrunner, with 212 branches, followed by Bank of America -- which, at least in other parts of the country, has been closing branch locations.

Fool's take
Why are these suitors interested enough to make another play for BankUnited so soon? To paraphrase the real estate industry, it's about location, location, location. BankUnited has 90 of them, an obvious attraction for PNC, which recently acquired RBC Bank and its 14 branches. The bank makes no bones about its plans to spread out further, either by building or buying. Likewise, TD Bank has stated its desire to expand its current number of South Florida branches from 58 to more than 100, thus becoming the third-ranked bank in that area.

BankUnited CEO John Kanas has said that the bank is happy to consider offers, unsolicited though they may be. Whether the bank sells this time probably depends upon the suitors' inclination to up the ante, since price appeared to be the problem that nixed the deal last time. In the meantime, Kanas has ambitions for the bank, having recently purchased Herald National Bank in Manhattan -- which put him in hot water with his former employers, Capital One, over the terms of his severance contract.

With the thrift's success and the continued interest on the part of these few banks, management and shareholders will probably hold out for their target price.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix owns no shares in the companies mentioned above.

The Motley Fool owns shares of PNC Financial Services, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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