Florida may be God's waiting room, but it's also a rare thing for big banks -- a state where there's actual growth potential. Of course, banks like Bank of America
Income Investor recommendation National City unveiled an all-stock deal today that values Harbor at $45 per share. Not only is that a healthy premium to yesterday's close (about 20%), but it's also a pretty rich multiple whether you look at book value, earnings, or economic value-added measurements.
Although you can say that this buys National City a beachhead in Florida (along the so-called "Treasure Coast" of eastern Florida), it doesn't really buy it a strong market position. True, Harbor may be the fifth-largest publicly traded bank based in Florida, but it's not in the top 15 of deposit market share (at least based upon the most recent FDIC data I could find). What's more, when you consider that Bank of America, Wachovia, and SunTrust already collectively have nearly 50% of Florida's deposits, you can see the challenge that lies ahead.
As you can probably tell, I'm not really thrilled with the deal. Sure, Harbor is at least an "OK" bank, but that's not the issue. First of all, buying a bank inevitably disrupts (and/or ticks off) customers -- something Fifth Third has learned to its sorrow in Florida. And like Fifth Third, National City has work to do in terms of shoring up its performance in its home base(s). Last but not least, National City has talked about wanting to be a little less sensitive to real estate lending, and yet here it buys a bank whose loan portfolio is mostly residential real estate.
All in all, this deal isn't going to kill, maim, or even seriously wound National City, but it strikes me as a potential distraction at a time when management has other irons in the fire. National City may have an attractive yield, but so do U.S. Bancorp
For more bankable Foolishness:
- Reconsidering National City
- Fifth Third Getting Second Wind?
- Bank of America: The Flip Side of a Tough Year
U.S. Bancorp, Bank of America, and National City are all recommendations of Motley Fool Income Investor . The Income Investor portfolio is currently beating the market by more than four percentage points.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).