Buoyed by the pending acquisition of Boston's Grove Bank, Massachusetts community bank and thrift stocks are rallying amid speculation about continuing takeovers.
Grove's stock price, which jumped 32% last week, heated up along with the stocks of five other banks and thrifts in the state. Among them, Sandwich Co-operative Bank, Andover Bancorp, and Abington Bancorp showed stock price percentage gains in the double digits since the Nov. 4 announcement of the Grove deal.
"There's an investment theme out there that suggests those banks are next in line," said Gerard Cassidy, senior vice president and bank analyst at Tucker Anthony Inc. in Portland, Maine. But he cautioned, "I'm not certain if any of those banks will go in the near future."
Grove Bank reached an agreement to sell to Citizens Financial Group Inc. in Providence, R.I., for $87.1 million in cash.
The "pent-up" demand for stock in financial institutions seemed to spill over into Connecticut this week, according to James Moynihan, managing director of the Advest Group in Boston. Some Connecticut bank stocks got a lift after a Bank of Boston Corp. official said in a Friday meeting with analysts that the bank wanted to boost its Connecticut presence.
That sent speculators scurrying to find Connecticut institutions with $1 billion or more of assets. Webster Financial Corp., Waterbury, and People's Savings Financial Corp., New Britain, were considered likely candidates.
A Bank of Boston spokeswoman would only say that the bank has ambitions to expand its Fairfield County operations.
In the aftermath of the Grove sale and Bank of Boston's latest quest, analysts say it will probably mean more consolidation, in particular among the region's community banks.
"I think we're going to continue to see more M&A activity in New England - both interstate and intrastate," Mr. Moynihan said.
SNL Securities pegged Andover Bancorp, a $1.1 billion-asset institution, as the next takeover candidate, pointing out that the company's stock closed at its 52-week high of $27.33 last Friday. The stock traded at 10 times its average daily trading volume.
Meanwhile, officials at Sandwich Co-operative and Abington Bancorp wouldn't comment on whether a takeover was in the offing.
"I think most of these things run in a cycle and they back off, then something happens and it stirs the pot all over again," said Frederic D. Legate, president and chief executive officer of Sandwich Co-operative. Sandwich's stock rose from $23 on the day the Grove deal was announced to $27.75 on Monday.
Grove's sale price, which company officials say was 1.78 times book value, probably ignited the flurry of stock price increases, Mr. Cassidy said. But he doubts that others will get the same lucrative deal.
Citizens Financial Group, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, agreed to pay $87.1 million in cash - about $51 a share - for Grove, which has $599 million in assets.