BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. continues to assert that it will be a survivor even after its latest effort to raise capital fell short of expectations.
The $4.5 billion-asset company managed to raise just $11.3 million last week in a shareholder rights offering designed to bring in nearly triple that amount. Most of the funding came from the company's largest investor, BFC Financial Corp., which is run by the Levan family.
Alan Levan, BankAtlantic's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview Wednesday that the company was able to raise enough money to comply with heightened capital ratios that regulators ordered it to reach by Thursday. He said the capital should be enough to allow BankAtlantic to put its worst days behind it.
"We didn't need $30 million," Levan said. The rights plan "provided the last piece of capital to meet the regulatory requirements without excessive dilution to exiting shareholders."
To be sure, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company may have raised enough capital to stave off regulators. Still, there is concern among some observers that the company could struggle to raise outside funds because of a complicated corporate structure in which BFC Financial owns more than 50% of the bank and a majority of BankAtlantic's controlling votes.
Shareholders want more voting power if they are to invest in a bank, said Charles Thayer, chairman of Chartwell Capital Ltd. in Fort Lauderdale. "At the community bank level, the structures are typically far more simple."
Some industry observers noted that BankAtlantic has been able to survive at a time when other large institutions have succumbed.
"This is a bank you don't want to bet against," said Ken Thomas, an economist and bank consultant in Miami. "They always seem to spring back and find a way just when analysts have written them off."
Levan continues to defend BankAtlantic against its critics. He said Wednesday that the bank has always exceeded the official regulatory capital ratio requirements.
In a February cease-and-desist order, regulators required BankAtlantic to raise its ratios to at least 8% of Tier 1 capital and a total risk-based capital ratio of 14%.
Levan said the rights offering will allow BankAtlantic to top those targets, though he would not provide any ratios.
At 37.8%, BankAtlantic's offering was among the six worst-performing rights offerings among public banks since January 2010, in terms of capital raised against a target, based on data from SNL Financial.
Levan said the $30 million goal was set before BankAtlantic sold 19 branches to PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and he said sales of nonperforming loans and expense cuts will also help capital ratios. Despite a negative equity position in the first quarter, Levan said he believes there is no need for additional capital.
Levan said capital ratios mandated by the company's regulator put "us at a higher capital level than" any other community bank in Florida. "Unless something comes out of left field … we are comfortable with where we are."
If its capital holds up, BankAtlantic may have an advantage in Florida because of its 79 branches in the state, which would make it attractive to a potential acquirer. Instead, BFC Financial has raised its control since the recession.
"We like being independent," Levan said, though he noted management has a "fiduciary responsibility to consider any" offers.
"Our franchise has continued to grow even though we've had all this speculation about BankAtlantic, and we've had losses for the last four years," he added.