Shares of SunTrust Banks Inc. have been hammered hard amid criticism of its deal for Crestar Financial Corp., but one veteran banking analyst thinks a buying opportunity lurks.
Stock buyers can "aggressively position" on the price weakness, said Frank J. Barkocy at Josephthal & Co., New York.
In making the assessment, Mr. Barkocy bucked the sentiment of many analysts who said the deal was expensive and that SunTrust may not have the skills to pull off the consolidation.
Those sentiments prompted wide selling of shares, with a $2.1875 dip Tuesday, to $76.8125, after a $8.25 dive Monday, when the $9.5 billion deal was announced.
But Mr. Barkocy predicted the "selloff will be short-lived."
Shares of SunTrust will hit $93 in the coming year as people become more aware of what a good deal the merger presents, he said.
In fact, Tuesday's slide may not have been related to merger fallout, since most bank stocks fell that day.
Investors were concerned about the quality of banking companies' profits and by testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan before the Senate Banking Committee.
While acknowledging the economy has slowed somewhat in recent months, Mr. Greenspan warned that lurking inflation will create pressures if the cool-off does not continue on its own.
Investors "took that as a potential indication" that when the Fed does act, it will raise, not lower interest rates, to sustain the slowdown, said Kevin Timmons, a banking analyst at First Albany Corp.
The Standard & Poor's bank index plunged 3.55%, and the Dow Jones industrial average was off 1.14%. The Nasdaq bank index slid 1% and the S&P 500 1.61%.
As for SunTrust, it will prove doubters wrong and pull together the Crestar deal to create "a premier financial services franchise with leading market positions" in five Southeast states, Mr. Barkocy said.
Still, there is a large camp that feels investors are right to unload. Though SunTrust is not compromising the value of its earnings per share, it will "significantly dilute" its price-to-earnings multiple, that key gauge for stock value, said Edward R. Najarian, a banking analyst at Wheat First Union.
By issuing shares to cover the purchase, SunTrust will shave the per- share value of its large Coca-Cola Co. holding, Mr. Najarian said.
There is also "execution risk" because SunTrust has not done a big deal in more than a decade and the company will suspend its share buyback program.
As a result, "excess capital may not be deployed as efficiently," Mr. Najarian said.
At the very least, "at the moment you're seeing a changing of the investor base," said Adam Lewis, an equity trader with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
Many longtime holders liked the conservative bent SunTrust had traditionally taken and are "rethinking" their investment now that the company has hopped into the acquisition game, Mr. Lewis said.