Nearly three years after returning to banking, Jay Sidhu is preparing to take his latest venture to the next level.
The $2 billion-asset Customers Bancorp in Wyomissing, Pa., this week set the pricing for its initial public offering. It is planning to sell as many as 8.2 million shares for $13 to $15 a share. Customers filed its registration statement in late March.
The additional equity would give the ambitious company ample fuel to grow. Shareholders’ equity was $150.5 million at the end of the first quarter, and the offering could increase that by $92 million to $123 million.
“Our strategic plan is to become a leading regional bank holding company through organic growth and value-added acquisitions,” the filing said.
Sidhu, the chairman and chief executive of Customers, is noted for growing Sovereign Bank’s assets from $500 million to more than $90 billion over two decades. Sidhu resigned from that company in 2006 as credit concerns and integration problems multiplied. Sovereign was sold to Banco Santander SA in 2009.
Sidhu, through an assistant, declined to comment for this story because of the company’s quiet period.
Though he grew Sovereign largely through acquisitions, Sidhu has repeatedly vowed that this time he will take a more balanced approach.
“Jay is a smart banker and I think he has learned from the positives and negatives of Sovereign. He has taken this position of, ‘I’ll do a deal if it less expensive than organic growth,’” said Jeff Marsico, an executive vice president at Kafafian Group in Parsippany, N.J. “All bankers should have that mentality.”
The company has acquired two failed banks and one open bank under Sidhu’s direction, but organic growth has driven its explosive growth during the last three years. Assets have increased 470% since 2009. “Most of our asset growth since 2009 has come from organic growth,” the filing said.
Customers’ organic growth strategy is based on generating business through its personalized service, the filing said. For instance each customer gets a relationship manager that is available 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Its acquisition strategy is focused on “undervalued and troubled community banks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware,” the filing said. “As we evaluate potential acquisition opportunities, we believe there are many banking institutions that continue to face credit challenges, capital constraints and liquidity issues and that lack the scale and management expertise to manage the increasing regulatory burden.”
Sidhu led a $17 million capital raise in the bank, then called New Century Bank, in June 2009. Since then, the bank has raised an additional $88 million in capital from private investors.
The IPO is necessary to bankroll additional growth, Marsico said. The company and its bank unit have a leverage ratio of roughly 7.5%. Regulators like to see that ratio at least above 8% for acquirers, Marsico said.
“I don’t know if they could come up with another $100 million from existing shareholders,” Marsico said, citing ownership threshold restrictions. “By going public, the universe of buyers expands.”
Sidhu, also serves as non-executive chairman of Atlantic Coast Financial, a $777 million-asset company in Jacksonville, Fla. That company said last year that it was exploring a possible sale and reaffirmed that position earlier this week.