Aftershocks continue to emanate from the planned sale of Barnett Banks Inc. to NationsBank Corp.
Wall Street analysts are pondering what unsuccessful bidders for Barnett might do in the aftermath of the biggest deal in U.S. banking history. Barnett, Florida's last major independent bank, sold for a record $15.5 billion.
The conjecturing mostly centers on Banc One Corp. The Columbus, Ohio- based superregional had long been deemed a fitting partner for Barnett and was presumed to have designs on the rich Florida banking market.
"We suspect that Banc One tremendously regrets not winning this bid," Thomas D. McCandless and Peter J. Winter, banking and financial services analysts at Natwest Securities, New York, said in a report.
"Having been shut out of a key midwestern franchise with a losing bid for Boatmen's last year and now losing a premiere retail-oriented franchise in the key growth markets of Florida has probably increased pressure on the senior executives in Columbus," they said.
The pressure, they added, is likely to be of "the self-induced kind." Banc One's chief executive, John B. McCoy, has long been among the leading growth-by-acquisition bankers in the country-along with NationsBank chief Hugh L. McColl Jr.
"In our view, the battle lines are being drawn for the West Coast," Mr. McCandless and Mr. Winter wrote.
They said they would not be surprised if Banc One begins aggressively to court Comerica Inc., Detroit, which has a small but diverse franchise in California, as well as stakes in Florida and Texas.
Analyst Michael Plodwick of Salomon Brothers recently rated a combination with Banc One as the most likely deal involving Comerica.
"Although Comerica's California franchise does not meet Banc One's market share criteria, it could be used as a stepping-stone to other deals," he noted.
Banc One has long insisted it must rank no smaller than third in any market where it is active. But the company last month did a deal in Louisiana that involved the stepping-stone approach. After acquiring Premier Bancorp. of Baton Rouge, it is buying First Commerce Corp., New Orleans, making it a major player in that state.
"Having a presence in a market gives potential acquirers a critical buying advantage over others who may be out of market," said Mr. McCandless and Mr. Winter. And, they emphasized, "it's the second deal in any given market that makes the most economic sense."
Potential targets for wider market reach eventually might include both H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and Washington Mutual Inc., the big thrifts who dueled this spring for Great Western Financial Corp. Washington Mutual won that contest, and Ahmanson last month bounced back to do a deal with Coast Savings Financial Inc.
"The race is on for the West Coast," the Natwest analysts wrote. In the commercial banking realm, they did not rule out U.S. Bancorp., Minneapolis, as a potential target - nor even San Francisco's Wells Fargo & Co. if it does not soon recover from its poorly executed takeover of First Interstate Bancorp.