Lingering financial turmoil overseas could spark more sales of California's Asian-controlled banks, according to local consultants.
One bank, First Central Bank of Los Angeles, has wrapped up negotiations to be sold, said Henry Lee, executive vice president at the $104-million asset institution.
"We have reached an agreement with one of the largest banks in Southern California," Mr. Lee said, but refused to name the acquirer.
The buyer is rumored to be East West Bank, San Marino, Calif., a $1.8 billion-asset company that was controlled by Indonesians until last year, when it was sold to U.S. investors.
While he would not comment specifically on First Central, East West chief executive Dominic Ng said, "We're looking for acquisitions."
The deal for First Central, which could be announced today, is valued at approximately $14 million. First Central is owned by local Chinese businessmen in Los Angeles and investors from Hong Kong.
Other attractive takeover candidates, observers said, are Japanese-held institutions based in Los Angeles. They include: Tokai Bank of California, a subsidiary of Tokai Bank Ltd., Nagoya; Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank of California, a subsidiary of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd., Tokyo; and Manufacturers Bank, a subsidiary of Sakura Bank Ltd., Tokyo.
Calls to these banks were not returned Thursday.
Edward J. Carpenter, chairman and chief executive of Carpenter & Co., a consulting and investment banking firm in Irvine, Calif., said he knows of at least four deals in the works. While he would not say which banks are involved, he said preliminary levels of due diligence are under way. "Some deals are more advanced than others," Mr. Carpenter said.
Speaking at a meeting of local bank presidents in Santa Barbara, Calif., this month, Mr. Carpenter said the most likely suitors for California's Asian-owned banks would be other California banks. He predicted the deals would fetch 1.25 to 2.25 times book.
Though there are signs of recovery overseas, banking companies and private investors in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia are still reassessing their U.S. investments.
"I think there will definitely be some changes of ownership," said Robb Evans, president of Robb Evans & Associates in Sun Valley, Calif., a financial consulting firm.
The Asian crisis has already altered the banking landscape in California. Last year five Asian-owned banks in the Golden State were sold. Two deals are pending. Also last year, at three other Asian-owned banks in California, Asian investors sold their majority ownership to U.S. investors.
The most recent transaction involves Los Angeles-based Lippo Bank, which has a deal pending to sell to Commercial Bank of San Francisco for about $16 million.
Cash-strapped Japanese banks have sold off a number of U.S. investments. The most noteworthy deal was Sumitomo Bank's sale of its California unit, Sumitomo Bank of California, to Zions Bancorp, Salt Lake City, for about $546 million.
Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd. sold its 30% stake in The CIT Group, New York, and Sanwa Bank Ltd. sold its commercial finance unit to Fleet Financial Group late last year.