Florida real estate is remarkably cheap right now, and so is the state's biggest deal this year.

1st United Bancorp Inc.'s agreement to buy Anderen Financial Inc. outside of Tampa is the biggest deal on record in 2011 for a Florida bank that had not failed.

But the $37 million price tag is paltry compared with what banks in similar shape in California, New Jersey and Florida have gone for this year.

There are two main curbs on Anderen's selling price. A dismal local property scene is hurting profit at the $205 million-asset company, and a glut of failures has depressed valuations for healthy banks.

Anderen's two unsuccessful attempts to sell itself in recent years further weighed on its value.

Its deal to merge with Florida Bank Group Inc. of Tampa fell through in January because regulators were reluctant to sign off. Its proposed sale to FCB Florida Bancorp collapsed at the end of 2009, a year before FCB's parent company failed.

1st United, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Anderen expect to close their deal in the first half of 2012, pending approvals from regulators and Anderen's shareholders.

Anderen is being sold for a relative bargain compared with recent sales of other small banks with similar levels of problematic loans.

1st United would pay a price equivalent to about 95% of its tangible book. In June, Opus Bank agreed to buy RMG Capital Corp. in Fullerton Calif., for about 131% its tangible book, according to data from SNL Financial.

BCB Bancorp. agreed to buy Allegiance Community Bank in South Orange, N.J., for 97% of its tangible book, or just slightly more than Anderen, even though Allegiance has a considerably higher ratio (4.8%) of nonperforming assets.

1st United expects to lose money on about 4% to 7% of Anderen's outstanding loans, or $6 million to $10 million.

That is lower than loan markdowns of 12% or more common in purchases of other banks with lots of commercial real estate in the past year.

Anderen has a decent balance sheet and relatively high capital levels. About 3.6% of its assets are nonperforming, which is slightly high but not out of line for a regional bank with a heavy amount of business property loans.

So why is it fetching less than those other banks?

The first reason relates to profit. Anderen — which had earnings of about $500,000 in the first half of the year — is less profitable. Its returns on equity are lower than the two other banks.

The less money a bank earns, the lower the price because a buyer needs to be able to earn back what it pays in a reasonable amount of time.

In this case, 1st United expects to earn back what it is paying for Anderen in less than three years, an amount of time acceptable to investors.

Sometimes scarcity value can drive up a deal price, especially in coveted markets such as Texas. But Anderen does not have much scarcity value; a steady pace of failures in Florida has given would-be buyers ample opportunity to bulk up without having to buy a healthy bank.

Twelve Florida banks have failed this year. There have only been six other non-failed-bank transactions in Florida this year, according to SNL data. The second biggest deal by value was CBM Florida Holding Co.'s acquisition of First Community Bank of America in Pinellas Park for $10 million.

Stifel Nicolaus & Co. advised 1st United in the deal. Sandler O'Neill & Partners advised Anderen.

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