Barnett's Decline in Price Delays Plan for Offering

As Barnett Banks was waiting for a green light from the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue 2.875 million new shares, the stock tumbled below an acceptable price range.

A prolonged delay could interfere with a growth strategy pinned to dominant market share and a fortresslike balance sheet.

But as long as the delay is temporary, it should not derail plans for selected acquisitions, analysts said. Rumored targets inregulators, shares suffered a $2 plunge June 25 and 26. It was at this time that Wells Fargo Corp. shook the industry with its announcement of reduced earnings. It was also when news became public about mergers among four of Barnett's competitors in the Southeast.

Mr. Stickler, the company spokesman, said the bank has dealt with most of the agency's concerns even though the review has not been completed yet. Nothing he has seen so far rules out proceeding with the offering at a later date, but he would not specify at what price the offering would be viable.

Activity Among Competitors

While the review was underway, competitive conditions in Florida changed markedly.

If NCNB and C&S/Sovran follow through with a merger, the combined entity would move into second place, with about 13.7% of Florida's deposits. Barnett would still dominate the market, with more than 24%, however.

A sale of Southeast Banking Corp. with Federal assistance appears ever more likely. And analyst Cheryl Swaim of Oppenheimer & Co. said Barnett's share price could increase in a hurry if such a deal were to be arranged.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.