Though plenty of community bank companies are raising capital, only a small number have fully subscribed their stock offerings without discounting shares.
The banks that have accomplished this feat agree that being specific is key when pitching investors. It is no longer enough to say the capital is intended for "general corporate purposes"; instead, it is much more persuasive to highlight such goals as acquiring an ailing or failed bank or reducing debt by a specific amount.
"It's all about proving what the money is being used for," said Derek Cunningham, managing director of the bank development group at Commerce Street Capital LLC in Dallas. "And the more specific you can be with what it's being used for, the better."
Most continue to price offerings at a discount. Only 46 community bank offerings, or 30% of the 153 common stock offerings so far this year, have been priced above tangible book value, according to data from SNL Financial LC and prepared by FBR Capital Markets & Co.
Analysts agree that an effective story these days is a detailed story. That was true for Mississippi's $3.6 billion-asset Renasant Corp., which raised nearly $55 million in capital in one day in July — selling almost 4 million shares at 1.33-times book value — after telling investors it was planning to bid on a failed bank.
The $14-a-share price placed it among the highest price-to-tangible-book-value offerings by a community bank this year.
E. Robinson McGraw, Renasant's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview that the deal succeeded because the company, in effect, offered a money-back guarantee: It promised to buy a failed bank or return the commitments. Also, Renasant had spent four years developing its capital-raising road show. "It's easy to go out when things are going well, but it's difficult to go out when things are not going well," he said.
By the time Renasant decided to proceed with the offering, McGraw said, it had inquiries and was able to raise the capital from a small group through a conference call with its investment banker.
And McGraw did not have to return the money. The offering closed July 23, the day that Renasant Bank announced it had won the bidding for the failed Crescent Bank and Trust in Jasper, Ga., in a deal aided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Potential acquisitions are not the only way to gain investors' interest. Some companies promise to grow in other ways. Yet these banks typically have a strong record of growth and are not weighed down by credit problems.
For example, the $1.3 billion-asset CNB Financial Corp. in Clearfield, Pa., completed a fully subscribed $32 million capital-raising effort in June, at 1.48 times book value. This put it among the higher-priced offerings by community banks this year.
Joseph Bower Jr., CNB's president and chief executive, said the reasons it attracted investors at this price were simple: CNB has not cut dividends, it is profitable and it did not participate in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
In its offering announcement, CNB spelled out the purposes for the capital, which included refinancing and reducing its debt. Bower said CNB has done just that and its stock price has risen about 33% since the offering. Still, he was surprised.
"When you go into these things, you have no idea how you're going to come out," he acknowledged.
Meanwhile, investors have a sense that the bigger the bank, the better it can handle potential losses, said Walter Moeling 4th, a partner in the Bryan Cave law firm in Atlanta.
Because of this, analysts and bankers said, they expect the prices of stock offerings by smaller banks to remain below book value for the rest of this year, and for the offerings to be prolonged.
During what Commerce Street's Cunningham calls the "wonder years" of 2002-2006, banks could complete an offering in two to four months. "Now it's three to six months," he said.
Yet despite these difficulties, Cunningham's firm recently helped Founders Bank, a $124.7 million-asset bank in Sugar Land, Texas, raise $7.6 million in capital when it had initially expected to bring in about $5 million. The offering was oversubscribed and garnered a price above book value largely because the bank set a goal of making acquisitions.
Cunningham said this proves that small banks can come out ahead. "We're still getting deals done," he said. "They're taking a lot longer than I thought, and they're difficult, but they're getting done."