With its economy stabilized, Massachusetts may ripe for another wave of consolidation. Attention is focused on the remaining independent banks and savings banks.
"The current prices of smaller Massachusetts bank and thrift stocks offer substantial appreciation potential for investors" because of prospective deals, said Brian D. Bertonazzi, an analyst at H.C. Wainwright & Co., Boston.
A particularly appealing target, he said is NBB Bancorp., New Bedford, the largest independent bank left in the state, with assets of $2.4 billion. It has strong capital and reserves as well as a dominate share of its home market.
NBB shares on Wednesday were up 12.5 cents to $33 in late trading and are at a 52-week high, priced at 120% of book value. But Mr. Bertonazzi thinks a minimum takeover price of 1.5 times book, or $41.25, is possible in the event of a deal.
Next to Go?
The most likely takeover candidate in the state, according to most banking analyst, is BankWorcester Corp., Worcester. However, the Boston analyst said he felt its takeover value "is substantially reflected" in its current price.
On Wednesday, shares of BankWorcester were up 25 cents to $26, trading at 125% of book value. The bank, with $1.2 billion of assets, is in a recovery phase from loan problems incurred during the state's recent. deep recession.
Desirable targets near the Boston are with healthy balance sheets and more upside potential in share prices, he said, are Sterling Bancshares, Waltham; Massbank Corp., Reading; and two thrifts, Medford Savings Bank and Peoples Bancorp of Worcester.
On Wednesday, Sterling was up 50 cents to $23.75, Massbank was unchanged at $34.75, Medford was unchanged at $27, and Peoples was unchanged at $31.25.
Packaged Purchase Advised
Mr. Bertonazzi cautioned that some of the banks and thrifts are small in terms of market share and have limited market liquidity and are best acquired by investors as a package.
The analyst believes fill-in acquisitions will be made by the four large organizations now dominating the state: Bank of Boston Corp., BayBanks Inc., Fleet Financial Group, and Shawmut National Corp.
Bank of Boston, Fleet, and Shawmut have all said they are interested in expanding their franchises in local markets, particularly in Middlesex County, which encompasses many affluent Boston suburbs.
But deals by out-of-state institutions cannot be ruled out, he said. As a proof, he cited the pending acquisition of Boston Five Bancorp. by Citizens Financial Corp., Providence, R.I., a savings bank wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Independent Bank Corp., Rockland, and Quincy Savings Bank cannot boast the same degree of balance sheet health, he noted, but are in recovery phases and should be regarded as "late cycle plays."
Co-operative Bank of Concord, is an attractively situated merger candidate. With small, but strategic shares of the banking markets in both Middlesex and Norfolk counties, he said the institution is "a classic fill-in candidate."
Independent was unchanged at $4.31 on Wednesday while Quincy was down 25 cents to $9.125 and Co-operative Bank was down 62.5 cents to $14.625. !!!BEGIN TABLE Bay State Banking Targets Stock Market price to book 8/3/93 ratio
BankWorcesterCorp. $25.75 123%
Co-operativeBank of 15.25 99
ConcordIndependent 4.31 116
Bank Corp.Massbank 34.75 92
Corp.Medford 27.00 85
Savings BankNBB 32.88 119
Bancorp. PeoplesBancorp of 31.25 103
WorcesterQuincy 9.38 61
Savings BankSterling 23.25 111
Bancshares Sources: H.C. Wainwright & Co., SNL Securities !!!END TABLE