The days of independence are numbered for many southeastern regional banks, according to a Florida finance professor.

Regions Financial Corp., SouthTrust Corp., Union Planters Corp., and Amsouth Bancorp. are among 23 companies headed for takeover, said Prof. Larry A. Frieder of Florida A&M University.

Well known as co-author of a 1994 book with Banc One Corp. chairman John B. McCoy and Fleet Financial Group's head of retail, Robert B. Hedges Jr., Prof. Frieder spoke last week at a conference here sponsored by Robert Morris Associates.

Prof. Frieder, who is updating that book, "BottomLine Banking," said the Southeast has many companies ripe for consolidation largely because of the number of small and midsize banks.

"This particular size bank, for one reason or another" is still heavily represented in the Southeast, he said.

Tennessee and Alabama are particularly attractive markets for consolidation, he noted.

Prof. Frieder said his research shows a great deal of excess capacity in the banking industry nationwide.

Bank revenues are not large enough to cover expenses-including necessary technology spending-and still keep shareholders happy.

Therefore, consolidation must continue, he said. Companies that try to remain independent risk winding up without an attractive partner, he added, and those that choose not to merge will have to compete with much larger rivals.

Small to midsize companies with relatively low price-to-earnings multiples and small market caps should be among the first acquired, he said.

Other companies making Prof. Frieder's list of those headed for takeover include First Tennessee National Corp., First American Corp., Compass Bancshares, Hibernia Corp., Centura Banks Inc., and First Virginia Banks.

None of these companies has said it wants to sell or find a partner. In the past, their managements have either maintained that they would remain independent or would act in the best interests of shareholders.

The survivors, large or small, will be banks led by very talented management teams that recognize the importance of investing heavily in new technology and marketing, Prof. Frieder said.

His "high-probability survivors" include First Union Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Norwest Corp., U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo & Co., and J.P. Morgan & Co.

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