New York Community Bancorp said Wednesday that its purchase of a failed Midwestern bank last month is already paying off.
Cleveland's AmTrust Bank added to the bottom line in the fourth quarter while delivering a large new base of surprisingly sticky, low-cost deposits. After raising capital to finance the acquisition, the Westbury, N.Y., lender is sitting on a massive stockpile of cash — about $2.7 billion — that it can lend out at attractive rates or use to buy other banks.
"This transaction makes the likelihood of doing additional add-on transactions significantly higher," said Joseph Ficalora, New York Community's chairman and chief executive. "I'd say that we could do a small deal that is right in our market next week. We could do a large deal — certainly depending on the complexities of the deal — in the quarters ahead."
New York Community is among a rare class of banking companies that may come out of the recession stronger. It has stayed profitable by making well-written loans to the owners of rent-controlled apartments in and around New York, a historically stable market. Though bad loans and credit costs have risen, its loan losses are much lower than those of its peers.
In the last decade, the company expanded rapidly by buying other banks in the New York area and using their deposits to fund its multifamily-home loans. The AmTrust deal — giving it 66 branches in Florida, Ohio and Arizona — was its first purchase outside familiar territory. Ficalora said it may not be the last such deal.
New York Community paid no premium for AmTrust's $8 billion in deposits, a scant 3% of which have since run off. That is well under the 15% runoff rate it was expecting. The deal also had a generous loss-sharing agreement that translated into an $84 million gain in the most recent quarter.
"We like the latest results," said Matthew Clark, an analyst at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "You see the benefits of the AmTrust deal shining through."
The AmTrust deposits should also help offset New York Community's traditional reliance on wholesale funding, which tends to be more sensitive to interest rate swings than deposit funding, Clark said.
Collyn Bement Gilbert, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., said she "was impressed" by the deposit retention and that the company is talking about hiring in AmTrust's markets to help gather more deposits.
The results indicate that the most lucrative failed-bank deals tend to involve targets that have relatively straightforward business models, like AmTrust, which primarily collected deposits and made home loans, she said.
"I would probably be inclined to say the stars were aligned on this deal for both the buyer and seller," she said. "We're early yet, but the integration has been good."
Ficalora said New York Community has its eyes open for other failed banks on the East Coast and in its new markets.
"When we look to the future, we're likely to do deals where we have serious comfort with regards to asset risk," he said, "and the best way to [get] such comfort is an FDIC deal."
Meanwhile the company is focused on using its newfound financial heft to take market share from other New York-area apartment lenders. Over time, he said, it aims to "double or triple" its multifamily loan book, which grew about 1.5% last quarter, to $16.7 billion.
"This transaction represents a solid source of funding — meaning that we have billions of dollars that we can invest in" multifamily loans, he said.