Two years after deciding it wanted to become a major competitor in the Maryland market, BB&T Corp. has knitted together the eighth-largest banking company in the state through a series of acquisitions.
On Thursday the Winston-Salem, N.C., banking company unveiled the latest of those deals, announcing plans to buy $1.6 billion-asset FCNB Corp. of Frederick, Md., for $226.5 million in an all-stock deal. It is the company's fourth deal since 1998 in Maryland.
The acquirer has no intention of stopping. Its goal: the No. 5 spot in the state.
And BB&T's shopping list is not at all restricted to Maryland.
The company is looking to build market share throughout the Southeast and is building a reputation as one of the more efficient buy-and-integrate operations in banking.
"We said we would stay out of the market until August," said Burney Warren, BB&T's executive vice president in charge of mergers and acquisitions. "Now we are back in the market looking for deals. We continue to look for transactions in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and possibly eastern Tennessee."
The industry can expect to see the company announce more purchases by the end of the year in markets where it has a presence, he said.
"Our goal is to grow our asset base by 10% every year through acquisitions," he said.
This year, BB&T has already done that by closing in July on its purchase of One Valley Bancorp of Charleston, W.Va., which has a network of 123 branches and $6.6 billion of assets. The company is one of a few active acquirers in an otherwise lackluster market for mergers this year. (Wells Fargo & Co. has perhaps been the busiest buyer.)
With the purchase of FCNB, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2001, Mr. Warren said the company gains 34 branches and the No. 1 market share in central Maryland.
"Both institutions have solid capital positions, excellent credit quality, strong branch office networks, and very compatible corporate cultures," said BB&T chairman and chief executive John Allison in a statement.
Analysts have come to trust BB&T's methodical approach to dealmaking. Including the FCNB announcement, the company has snatched up 48 companies in the past 10 years and felt few ill effects from the torrid pace.
"I think BB&T has demonstrated a consistent ability to acquire companies, continue to hit their numbers, and not disappoint," said John Moore, an analyst at Wachovia Securities. "They have not stumbled yet."
He said the company's activity in Maryland is no anomaly. It has had a strikingly similar performance in Georgia over exactly the same period.
"They had no presence in Georgia two years ago, and now they are the eighth-largest in the state in assets," he said. "My guess is that they'll be No. 5 in the next two years."
"I think they are the best mid-cap consolidator in the Southeast," said John Balkind, an analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton. With respect to FCNB, he said the deal typifies the company's transactions, which have focused on banking companies with $1 billion to $4 billion of assets.
"The pricing seemed high, but given their ability to consolidate, which they've shown time and time again they can do, I think it will end up being a decent deal for them."
As part of the FCNB agreement, BB&T said it will consolidate eight of the company's branches.
With his company growing in recent years, FCNB president and chief executive A. Patrick Linton said it had expected a suitor to come calling.
"You are aware that there is going to be interest," said Mr. Linton, who will become president of BB&T's Frederick-based community bank region. "We were building a quality franchise and decided the timing was right."