BankBoston Corp. is ready to make acquisitions and will be looking at capital market and asset-management companies, chief executive officer Charles Gifford said.
Like many other regional banks, $62.3 billion-asset BankBoston examined the New York securities firm Oppenheimer & Co. as a potential acquisition but decided not to pursue a deal, said Mr. Gifford.
"It was not a good fit," he said in a recent interview.
But the Boston bank is looking at ways to build its securities capabilities, Mr. Gifford said. Its capital markets group was born two years ago and has already gained a reputation as a top underwriter of Latin American debt. Mr. Gifford and other executives said they would like to expand into equity underwriting in the near future.
"We don't have equity capabilities and we don't have distribution," said Mr. Gifford. "We would probably buy something on the smaller side."
"It would fit, given their strategic focus," said Anthony Polini, an analyst at Advest Inc. in New York. "As loan growth slows, fee income businesses are going to be especially scrutinized by Wall Street."
Mr. Gifford also said he would like to build the bank's asset-management unit, but that the acquisition prices for independent firms are currently too high. "There are too many people trying to buy right now," he said.
BankBoston's plans also include an expansion of its retail banking enterprise in New England and abroad.
Mr. Gifford said BankBoston was eyeing opportunities in Connecticut, where analysts have ranked it a distant fourth behind retail banking powerhouses Fleet Financial Group and First Union Corp. and the prominent thrift People's Bank of Bridgeport.
Mr. Gifford said BankBoston-a corporate banking giant that inherited the No. 1 retail position in Massachusetts with its 1996 acquisition of BayBanks-could either buy branches in Connecticut, establish new ones, or rely on electronic delivery to infiltrate the market.
But observers said an expansion might not be productive. "Given the consolidation in Connecticut and what's still available, the odds favor BankBoston never being a dominant presence there," said Mr. Polini.
Latin America appears to be a more likely area of retail expansion for the bank, the analyst said.
Mr. Gifford said Latin America was of "paramount interest." He said de novo branches would be cheaper to establish in the retail markets of Brazil and Argentina.