Out-of-state regionals have picked off the largest Florida thrifts-all in the Miami area - one by one in the past year, leaving the independent survivors fighting for customers in a dramatically changed market.
Five of the 10 largest thrifts in the state, ranging in size from $1 billion to $4.5 billion, were acquired in the past 12 months. A sixth, Home Savings Bank, has hung up a "for sale" sign.
A stampede of local thrifts is rushing in to fill the vacuum.
"It's a unique opportunity," said Alfred R. Camner, chairman of BankUnited Financial Corp. of Coral Gables. "Our motivation is to expand rapidly in the south Florida market to take advantage of all this consolidation taking place."
Mr. Camner was speaking at a New York hotel, where he was about to make a presentation of his company to potential investors. BankUnited recently began touting a secondary stock offering, through which it hopes to raise about $22 million in capital.
The capital infusion would help the thrift realize its goals of increasing assets by more than a third to $1 billion and building three to six new branches - all within the next 18 months, he said.
Down the road in Fort Lauderdale, BankAtlantic Bancorp last week said it intends to raise $15 million in a common stock offering beginning in March to finance an expansion of its operations.
The other locally based competitors include Commercial Bankshares, Chase Federal Bank, Founders Bank, and City National Bank.
Analysts said thrifts will benefit most from the recent consolidation because of the sudden availability of home loans for sale. When the out-of- staters such as NationsBank Corp. buy a local thrift they don't always want to keep many of the mortgages on their books, analysts said.
"BankUnited purchases most of their loans instead of originating them, so they have a lot of opportunities now to do that," said Lynne Laughna, analyst with Raymond James & Associates Inc., Tampa, which is underwriting BankUnited's offering.
The main out-of-state predators have been First Union Corp. of Charlotte, Amsouth Bancorp. of Birmingham, Ala., and NationsBank, which completed two acquisitions in Miami in December.
BankUnited has several layers of preferred stock already on its books, which could deter some investors from buying the current offering of common stock, analysts said.