Banc One Corp. said it will sell four of its affiliated banks in Michigan to Citizens Banking Corp. for $115 million in cash.
The Columbus, Ohio-based superregional's affiliates, located in the cities of Ypsilanti, Sturgis, Fenton, and East Lansing, have combined assets of $680 million.
Citizens, based in Flint, is Michigan's sixth-largest bank holding company, with $2.7 billion in assets.
The move flies in the face of Banc One's reputation as an acquirer, but is not unprecedented.
"When they feel that can't get big enough in a market, they sell. They've done it before," said Moshe A. Orenbuch, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
He did, however, question the banWs motivation.
"I wonder what that says about the market?" he asked. "They probably feel it is not advantageous to be there."
According to a Bane One spokesman, the four affiliates were purchased in 1987 and 1989.
"So far we have not been successhI in buying banks that fit into our strategy in Michigan," he said. "But we go where the opportunities are. We're not getting out of Michigan altogether."
The Banc One spokesman said the market did not perform well enough to satisfy the $84.5 billion-asset bank. The superregional strives to be in the top three in terms of share in all of its markets, he noted.
But for Citizens, the Banc One affiliates seem to be a good fit. The transaction enables Citizens to increase its franchise by 25%, bringing assets in Michigan to $3.5 billion at 87 branches.
Stephens Inc. analyst Frank Anderson said the transaction is Banc One's way of fine-tuning the company.
"It just wasn't the fit they anticipated," he said of the Michigan affiliates. "They're doing some soul-searching. What they are selling is just not that material to them."
Mr. Anderson noted that although the company's stock has been down of late because of investors' concerns over its derivatives holdings, the transaction will not hurt the stock.
"Banc One is not on the pedestal they once were," said Mr. AnderSon. "They're trying to regain that. Their stock has been a laggard for the past 18 months."
Early Friday afternoon, the stock of both banks lost some ground. Banc One was down 25 cents, to $33.625. Citizens lost 50 cents, falling to $25.75.