Continuing his march through the thrift industry, activist investor Jerome H. Davis is firing at two new targets.
Last week he notified management at Home City Financial Corp., Springfield, Ohio, and Mitchell Bancorp, Spruce Pine, N.C., that he wants them to start increasing shareholder value.
Among the suggestions listed in Securities and Exchange Commission filings: He wants Home City to buy back 5% of its stock-10% if possible. Home City converted to stock form four months ago.
Mr. Davis said that Mitchell, which converted last July, "simply must dump capital." In a letter to Mitchell's board, he urged them to pay a larger regular dividend and declare a substantial special dividend.
Mr. Davis, who owns big stakes in at least 40 financial institutions, said the letters were just part of his quarterly ritual to check on the progress of his investments.
He said he's not putting any pressure on the thrifts, because they both converted less than a year ago.
"I just wanted to let them know what I see so far," he said. Mr. Davis owns 9.99% of Mitchell and 9.71% in Home City.
Mr. Davis has become one of the most active shareholders in a time when proxy fights at community banks have become common. Officials at both thrifts were reluctant to discuss Mr. Davis' letters.
Edward Ballew Jr., president and chief executive officer of $30 million- asset Mitchell Bancorp, said he couldn't discuss the matter because he hadn't brought Mr. Davis' concerns to his board of directors. But so far, he said, life as a public company hasn't been much different than life as a mutual.
"Jerry is about the only one giving us any problem," Mr. Ballew said.
Douglas L. Ulery, Home City's president and chief executive officer, said that he had not seen Mr. Davis' recommendations, but that his board is constantly striving to maximize shareholder value.
"Mr. Davis suggests no methods that are not well known by Home City's board," Mr. Ulery said.
"We believe that Home City is doing well for a company that completed its conversion to stock form only four months ago."
Robert Dixon Clore, a director at Cowen & Co., an Albany, N.Y.-based investment banking firm, said it's important for bankers to listen to their shareholders, no matter what size a stake they hold. "Shareholders and management should share the same goals," Mr. Clore said. "Obviously, that is not always the case."
Mr. Davis' next move? "I'm just taking it easy waiting for the next round of conversions," he said.
And he's not shy about discussing potential stock acquisitions. He noted the impending conversions of Independence Community Bank Corp., Brooklyn, a $3.7 billion-asset thrift, and $1.85 billion-asset Staten Island Savings Bank.