KeyCorp's planned acquisition of Cleveland securities firm McDonald & Co., has spurred talk among traders and analysts about the expansion plans of another Ohio company, Star Banc Corp.
Market watchers who asked not to be identified said they felt Star Banc may be scrutinizing J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, a privately held brokerage firm in Louisville, Ky.
The Cincinnati banking company could consider acquiring Hilliard for defensive reasons, noted one observer. Star Banc's crosstown rival, Fifth Third Bancorp, has been on an acquisition marathon this year.
Tuesday, Fifth Third completed its acquisition of Ohio Co., a Columbus brokerage and money manager. It has also bought a privately held real estate business, W. Lyman Case & Co., and two thrifts, State Savings Co. of Columbus, Ohio, and Citizens Federal of Dayton, Ohio.
Such aggressiveness on Fifth Third's part could be making Star Banc eager to make an acquisition, some analysts suggested. "Star Banc does not have to make an acquisition right now," said bank analyst Eric E. Rothmann of Stephens Co. of Little Rock, Ark. "However, that does not mean the company could not be considering one for the future."
J.J.B. Hilliard, W. L. Lyons is "exactly the kind of community-based franchise that Star would need to compete with Fifth Third," Mr. Rothmann said.
"Over the years, we have been disinterested in being acquired," said senior vice president Todd Lowe of Hilliard. "Right now there is no offer on the table. But as the times change, we are prepared to do whatever we need to do to keep pace."
Bank analyst William Katz of Merrill Lynch & Co. noted that Star Banc "has said in the past that they have no interest in a brokerage firm."