A flurry of deals, including one announced Monday by M&T Bank Corp. of Buffalo and one by Wells Fargo & Co. last week, did not convince experts that bank M&A will perk up.
Low stock prices and a market that continues to throw cold water on many deals are the biggest hurdles, analysts said. Sellers also continue to hold out for higher prices, merger experts said.
There will be a trickling of smaller transactions, said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. There may be some larger deals later in the year, but it will likely be at a subdued pace.
M&T Bank said Monday that it would acquire Premier National Bancorp of Lagrangeville, N.Y., for $342 million. (See story, page 1.) In May, M&T reached a deal to buy Keystone Financial Inc. of Harrisburg, Pa., for $1 billion. Wells Fargo said last Friday it would buy Brenton Banks Inc. for $265 million in stock. Last month U.S. Bancorp said that it would buy Scripps Financial Corp. for $155 million.
Still, none of those deals are large enough to get mergers and acquisitions going, analysts said. M&Ts deal is not a watershed event, Mr. Mayo said.
Denis LaPlante, an analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton in New York, said that none of the deals this year have been big enough to trigger momentum.
In the first half of last year there were 15 deals in which the target companies had at least $1 billion of assets. This year there have been only nine, Mr. LaPlante said.
I see more deals in the second half of the year but below the annual average of 28 deals over the last decade, he said.
One reason is that many believe that the end of pooling-of-interests accounting, which has facilitated many bank deals in recent years, could be put off until next year, Mr. LaPlante said. If that is the case, the urgency to do deals is lessened .
Merger and acquisition activity fell off considerably last year after a rout in bank stocks and some large, headline-making deals failed to deliver the results they promised. Since then merger activity has continued to languish.
Ninety U.S. banking deals worth $12.9 billion have been announced this year, compared with 178 worth $51.8 billion in the same period last year, according to Thomson Financial Securities Data.
In other news, bank stocks fell slightly, though investors selectively bought shares in the sector.
American Bankers index of 50 largest banks fell 0.30%, while its index of 225 banks rose 0.19%.
The biggest gainers of the day included Northern Trust Corp. , up $1, or 1.45% to $70; State Street Corp., up $1.0625, or 0.94% to $113.50; and Comerica Inc., up 37.5 cents, or 0.76% to $49.8125.
The bank stocks lack direction, a trader said. The Federal Reserve has already met, and we have to wait for second-quarter earnings. Until we get a catalyst, banks will be a mixed bag.