First Horizon National must be pleased with its return to acquisitions.
The $28 billion-asset company largely stayed on the sidelines after the financial crisis, returning to M&A in 2015 by agreeing to buy a small bank in North Carolina before working out a pair of smaller deals.
Bryan Jordan, the Memphis, Tenn., company’s chairman, president and CEO, seems intent to keep expanding, telling analysts on a conference call Friday that “bigger is better than smaller” as he considers bank acquisitions. First Horizon is also open to added specialty-finance firms.
How big? The company would prefer buying banks with $5 billion to $10 billion in assets unless it finds an appealing alternative in a strategic market such as Raleigh, N.C., or Nashville.
First Horizon made a big push into Raleigh when it bought the $445 million-asset TrustAtlantic Financial in late 2015.
“We need to think about M&A in a broader sense,” Jordan said, pointing to his company’s agreement last year to buy a $600 million pool of franchise loans from General Electric. The GE deal included “a lot of really good talent … that we were able to hire.”
First Horizon followed the franchise loan acquisition with a $160 million deal for Coastal Securities, a firm that trades and securitizes Small Business Administration loans. The Coastal purchase is expected to close early next quarter.
Should First Horizon go shopping, it certainly won’t lack funds. Its Tier 1 capital ratio stood at 11.17% at Dec. 31.
Jordan also shared his overall view of M&A, projecting that activity will likely be slow before accelerating later this year.