Banque Nationale de Paris said it would buy nearly 2.1 million additional shares of BancWest Corp., the parent of Bank of Hawaii.

The purchase would restore its ownership stake to 45%.

That was the share when BancWest was formed in the November merger of First Hawaiian Inc. with the old BancWest Corp., which was a California subsidiary of the French bank. But the 45% was diluted to 41.8% on July 1 when the merged company bought SierraWest Bancorp.

BNP's plan to buy more BancWest stock was detailed in a July 21 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"This could be a catalyst to move this (BancWest) stock higher," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst with First Security Van Kasper in San Francisco. "Right now it's looking pretty inexpensive, and only trading about 65,000 shares a day."

Banque Nationale had said in the original merger agreement that it would restrict its BancWest ownership to 45% for a four-year "standstill period." After that it could buy the rest.

It is premature, Mr. Morford said, to speculate on whether the French bank intends to own all of BancWest.

However, he added, the announcement last week of the planned stock purchase proves that BNP values BancWest as an important part of its global franchise.

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.