EverBank Financial's initial public offering showed that public markets are willing to back a complex banking structure, but not at a price that bankers would prefer.

"We discovered that the IPO market is fairly choppy," Robert Clements, EverBank's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview after Thursday's stock debut. "We have a very long-term focus and our business needs dictate that now is the right time for us to raise capital to grow."

The $13 billion-asset EverBank lowered its offer price twice before going public in a projected $171 million net capital raise. An existing private investor had planned to sell nearly 6 million EverBank shares but backed out when the company lowered its offer price.

Industry observers say that the pricing shows that banks and private equity groups are waking up to new pricing levels for IPOs.

"People aren't tripping over themselves to invest in banks right now," says Jeff Davis, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities. "We're already at a price that will clear the market but the banking sectors … is just kind of lukewarm."

EverBank initially set a range of $12 to $14 a share, but cut it to $11 to $12 before finally going even lower, to $10 Wednesday evening. The offer price is just slightly above tangible book value of $9.93 per diluted share at Dec. 31.

"The fact that they're even getting a premium to book is a good thing," says Christopher Marinac, an analyst at FIG Partners.

Not many financial companies are going public, but those that have filed an IPO have repeatedly lowered the pricing. Seattle's HomeStreet changed its offer price three times before going public in February in a $96 million offering. Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with sizeable bank holdings, lowered its IPO offer price Wednesday to $22 a share from a range of $23 to $25.

"The PE guys are finding [the banking industry] is a much tougher and slower proposition to make money in than what they had originally envisioned," Davis says. Davis points to the only other Florida banking company to go public in recent memory: BankUnited in Miami Lakes, Fla.

BankUnited had one of the most successful capital raises in banking history at $783 million, but its stock is trading down from its $27 debut in January 2011. BankUnited closed at $24.65 a share on Wednesday.

EverBank has four private equity partners that owned more than 36% of the company before the IPO, and none have outlined plans to sell for now. The unnamed group that had intended to sell 5.9 million shares during the IPO price had been invested in the company for more than a decade and was looking for liquidity, Clements says.

EverBank has grown successfully despite being based in Jacksonville, Fla., though it has an unconventional banking model that could be discouraging a higher price in the market, observers say.

"The equity markets today favor core funding and core franchises," says Marinac, describing investor reaction at a conference he attended Thursday. "Investors are not willing to pay any premium unless it is for core deposits."

EverBank largely attracts deposits online and just recently obtained a larger branch network when it bought the failed Bank of Florida in 2010. Still, its untraditional banking model has taken off nationwide primarily due to residential loans and middle-market financing. Its management team prefers nonbank deals, including its recent purchase of MetLife Bank's warehouse lending division.

EverBank had waited on its IPO since filing for it in October 2010. But with several acquisitions complete, management says they needed more equity to bolster the businesses it has, including a new wealth management division.

"As much as I think Rob Clements and his team have a very, very good shot at being successful for quite a while," the market is in a "volatile situation and ultimately that's why the company is being priced where it is," Marinac says.

The thrift company is profitable but earnings fell 72% last year largely because of higher expenses. EverBank is regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and it was among the 14 mortgage servicers issued consent orders tied to foreclosure practices.

Last year featured "a significant investment in our infrastructure, in management teams and in systems to comply with and deploy a number of regulatory changes," says W. Blake Wilson, EverBank's president and chief operating officer. "With all of the strong pipelines [established] and good customer growth … our primary capital needs are to support business growth overall."

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