An investor who controls 12.2% of Damen Financial Corp.'s stock is urging the suburban Chicago bank holding company to sell, but finding a buyer may be harder than he thinks.
In an Aug. 24 letter Paul J. Duggan, president of Jackson Boulevard Fund Ltd. in Chicago, blamed Damen's poor performance on bad management and urged executives to sell. The letter was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Janine M. Poronsky, Damen's secretary and vice president, would not comment on reports that it is for sale. But sources close to the $233 million-asset company said it quietly retained an investment banker this spring to represent it in a sale but got little interest from potential buyers.
Damen is "a willing seller," said Stephen Skiba, a bank analyst at ABN Amro in Chicago. "The problem is there are no real takers."
Mr. Skiba said the company's mediocre earnings and disjointed branch network have made it an unattractive take-out candidate. For the 12 months ended March 31, Damen's subsidiary, Damen National Bank, reported a 0.99% return on assets, which lags behind the 1.37% national average for banks with $100 million to $300 million of assets. By June 30, Damen's 12-month ROA had dipped to 0.79%.
The stock market has punished Damen for its lackluster performance, Mr. Duggan said. At the time of his SEC filing Damen's shares were trading at $15. With the market suffering broad declines, Damen's stock hit a 52-week low on Friday of $13.75-just $1.75 above the price Mr. Duggan's company paid for its shares almost three years ago. And by midday Tuesday it was trading at $12.25.
Also hurting Damen's chance of being bought out is the location of its three branches. One of them is at the company's headquarters, in Schaumburg, a tony suburb northwest of Chicago. But the other two are an hour's drive away in working-class markets-one on Chicago's South Side, the other in a southwestern suburb.
It would be hard for the company "to appeal to any buyer who wants contiguous markets," Mr. Skiba said.
Should Damen find a suitor, it would probably be one with a large presence in Chicago looking to add a few branches for a low price, Mr. Skiba said. He predicted Damen would fetch less than two times its book value; that would have worked out on June 30 to a price of roughly $47 million.