F.N.B. Corp. hopes the recent relocation of corporate headquarters from Pennsylvania to Florida - where it has 55% of its assets - will warm investors to its stock.
The $3.9 billion-asset banking company had dual headquarters in Hermitage, Pa., and Naples, Fla., for several years, and Gary L. Tice, its president and chief executive officer, commuted between them. But last month Mr. Tice made Naples his official home base and the F.N.B. board voted to reincorporate as a Florida company. (Shareholders are to vote on that at their annual meeting April 23.)
"We think investors will like our expansion into Florida," Mr. Tice said. "It's rather difficult to tell the story of what our company is doing in Florida with a Pennsylvania headquarters."
F.N.B. has operations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Since entering Florida in 1997 it has acquired nine banks and six insurance companies there.
Moving to the state was the culmination of the company's shift in focus from the Northeast. Florida's economy grows faster than those of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Mr. Tice noted. "We decided to take advantage of that," he said.
"The majority of our assets and the majority of our shareholders are now in Florida, so it was appropriate to relocate the headquarters to where a majority of the business is."
Jefferson L. Harralson, an analyst at Robinson-Humphrey Co. in Atlanta, called the move good news for F.N.B.'s stock, which closed at $23.50 a share on Wednesday, near its 52-week high of $23.87. That increase is in line with those of similar-size companies in the Southeast, but Mr. Harralson agreed that F.N.B.'s origins hamper its stock.
"Being a Florida institution that has a Pennsylvania franchise on the side is much better than being a Pennsylvania institution with a Florida franchise on the side," he said. "There are a lot of investors who are looking at Florida banks, and this will put F.N.B. on their radar screens."
Though the Pennsylvania and Ohio banks cannot rival the Florida banks' growth potential, they remain a crucial element of F.N.B.'s strategy to expand in Florida.
"Pennsylvania is the highly capitalized piece; it's very profitable and generates capital," Mr. Harralson said. "The Florida piece is growing and using capital, so it's a symbiotic relationship."
Indeed, F.N.B. has never considered selling its Pennsylvania and Ohio banks, Mr. Tice said. "We still continue to generate a substantial amount of capital that we employ to continue growth in Florida," he said.
Mr. Tice, who took over as CEO in December, succeeding chairman Peter Mortensen, 64, said he intends to accelerate the pace of acquisitions, particularly around Naples, in southwest Florida. "We want to expand a little more quickly than we have in the past," he said.
He added that he has been meeting with investment bankers about possible targets.
Though the move will not result in job cuts, a charter consolidation that began in January and will end this month is expected to reduce what was a 1,790-person work force by about 4%.
The company will take a one-time charge of $3.2 million in the first quarter to cover costs related to the consoldation, but it is expected to generate about $4 million a year in savings.