SAN FRANCISCO - Winning bidders for branches and deposits to be divested by Wells Fargo & Co. and First Security Corp. should be announced early this month, somewhat later than had been planned.
The divestiture of 37 branches in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and New Mexico was required as part of Wells Fargo's pending acquisition of First Security, of Salt Lake City. Wells Fargo, which is based in San Francisco, said earlier that it had hoped to announce the winners by the end of August.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Marilyn Taylor would not give any reason for the delay except to say that negotiations with federal regulators were continuing.
"We're hoping to disclose buyers and locations at the same time," Ms. Taylor said.
One possible holdup could be a plan to sell the branches to more than one buyer. That is looking more likely, according to one source familiar with the situation.
BancWest Corp. of Honolulu is a leading contender, analysts said. Earlier this year the company looked like a winner in another big divestiture - for First Security's merger with Zions Bancorp - but shareholders rejected that merger deal.
A winning bid this time could make BancWest a force in the region.
BOK Financial Corp. of Tulsa, whose flagship is Bank of Oklahoma, has also been cited as potential bidder. But if the divested branches are sold in parcels of one or two states, the winners could end up being community banks or smaller regional companies in those states.
Selling to one buyer would make Wells Fargo's job easier, but operational glitches might make that less palatable. First Security and Wells Fargo have expanded on their own in the region in recent years, leaving a patchwork of multiple operating systems to convert.
For instance, as a result of First Security's 1993 acquisition of Continental Bancorp in Nevada and a few smaller acquisitions, its branches in that state are on a different system than those in the other three states where branches will be divested, a spokeswoman for First Security said.
That would make more work for someone interested in buying First Security's branches in Utah and in Las Vegas, where many of the divested branches are located. The Nevada branches include seven First Security branches in Las Vegas, with $392 million of deposits and associated loans.
Similarly, in Idaho a buyer would be faced with the cost of converting branches that use First Security's system and those that use a Wells Fargo system different from those Wells uses in the other states. The Idaho branches have not been converted to common platform since the 1998 purchase of the old Wells Fargo by Norwest Corp. of Minneapolis.