If you can't beat 'em -- or don't want to spend the money trying -- buy 'em. BancWest, the American subsidiary of French banking giant BNP Paribas
Investors holding Commercial Federal shares will receive $34 for each share, plus a special $0.50/share dividend that will be paid upon closing. Not only does that offer a 31% premium to yesterday's closing price (excluding the dividend) but also it values the thrift at more than 14 times 2006 estimates.
Although I suppose I should feel a little nostalgic at seeing such an old bank (it was founded in 1887) headquartered in my hometown going away, I don't. Commercial Federal had been performing poorly of late -- returns on capital and margins were both pretty feeble over the past few years and were seldom ever what I'd call "stellar." This buyout does at least give investors the opportunity to cash out at a pretty good price and move on.
This deal will give BancWest more than 700 branches in 20 Western states. In fact, BancWest will become the third-largest bank headquartered west of the Mississippi, after Wells Fargo
BancWest has certainly been busy, executing 16 acquisitions in 15 years' time and building itself from humble roots into a major banking entity. Of course, that's just a reflection of its parent's international efforts to gain assets and build market share.
Although the shares trade over the counter in this country, BNP Paribas might be worth a further look for those with an itch to gain more exposure to global (particularly European) banking. The parent company is seeing good growth in its core businesses and posts a handsome return on equity. Of course, some brokers won't handle "Pink Sheet" stocks; in addition to doing adequate due diligence on the company, investors will also need to make sure they can trade the shares through their current broker.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).
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