Huntington Bancshares stock advanced Monday as investors locked in dividends and looked ahead to possible takeover activity.
With $27 billion of assets and branches in the corridor between New York and Chicago, the Columbus, Ohio, banking company would be an ideal prize for a superregional wanting to spread its wings, one analyst said.
Huntington Bancshares is among banking institutions whose names are being bantered about as market watchers prepare for more consolidation in the wake of recent megamergers.
Huntington "is what's considered today a very nice-size target," said Joseph A. Stieven of Stifel Nicolaus.
Not long ago Huntington was among the region's biggest banks, a position that virtually ensured independence. But "times have changed," Mr. Stieven said. With Banc One Corp., KeyCorp, and National City Corp. wanting to getting larger in that area, Huntington is vulnerable, he said.
Monday was the cut-off date for investors to buy Huntington shares and qualify for a 10% stock dividend that will be paid late this month.
The stock closed at $32.25, up 56.25 cents.
Another similar-size institution, $26 billion-asset Crestar Financial Corp., is also getting attention as a well-run takeover prospect.
The Richmond, Va., banking company is being recognized for its own network in the affluent areas of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and for its growing product mix.
Crestar's "attractive positioning has heightened interest in the franchise," said Carla D'Arista, a banking analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Shares ended the day off 12.5 cents, to $58.8125.
On a smaller scale, $5 billion-asset National Commerce Bancorp offers opportunities in the South, especially Tennessee, analysts say.
Though last week's takeover speculation has cooled, the Memphis company could fetch $30 per share or a bit more in a buyout, said banking analyst Jacqueline Reeves of Salomon Smith Barney.
She cited the company's "unique niche franchise and management culture that has provided exceptional earnings growth, profitability measures, and credit quality."
Shares rose 12.5 cents, to $24.6875.
The action occurred while broader markets were mixed.
The Standard & Poor's bank index dipped 0.01% and the Dow Jones industrial slid 0.10%. The Nasdaq bank index rose 0.12%, and the S&P 500 was off 0.08%.
Gainers included Bankers Trust Corp., up 93.75 cents, to $120.9375; Citicorp, up $2.75, to $174.25; and J.P. Morgan & Co. up 6.25 cents, to $126, as investors anticipated positive earnings announcements. Some of the day's most active issues included brokerage stocks, which rose on earnings hopes and continued speculation about the companies as takeover targets.
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. was up $3.25, to $63.25; Hambrecht & Quist $1.75, to $38.3125; Merrill Lynch & Co. $1.75, to $107.9375; and Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co. $1.50, to $73.875.