If bank analysts are on target, Florida could be left without any of its Republics.
Last week Miami-based Republic Banking Corporation of Florida announced it would sell to Union Planters Corp. for $412 million. And analysts speculate that two other companies with similar monikers-Republic Security Financial Corp. in West Palm Beach and St. Petersburg-based Republic Bancshares-may be next.
"Down here it is never a question of will you sell-it's when will you sell," said Kenneth H. Thomas, a Miami-based bank consultant. "It's a market everyone wants to be in, and will pay to be in."
One analyst, Anthony J. Polini of Advest Group Inc., said Republic Security may be a target of Wachovia Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C.
Republic Security used five deals in 1998 to grow to $3 billion of assets, making it the largest remaining independent commercial bank in Florida. But the deal-making has driven its stock price down to single digits, from a 52-week high of $13.875.
Wachovia, meanwhile, has purchased two banks in the state in the last two years.
"Wachovia is as picky as you can get; they want a high-quality commercial bank," Mr. Polini said. "When they look at Republic Security, they will admire it for the quality bank it is."
But Rudy E. Schupp, Republic Security's chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said his company is focused on integrating the banks it has purchased. When that is completed, he said, he is confident the stock price will recover.
"At this stage, we are still a buyer, and not a seller," he said.
Deborah Beylus, an analyst with JW Genesis Capital Markets in Boca Raton, said she doubts Republic Security will sell until stock prices and deal values recover from recent lows.
"None of these CEOs are going to get full price for the company when the company is down," she said. "If they are not going to get full value, why would they settle for less?"
Meanwhile the St. Petersburg-based Republic Bancshares has been the subject of many merger rumors over the last few months.
The $2.3 billion-asset company announced a restructuring in December that included shuttering its troubled mortgage banking unit and eliminating 340 jobs. The company said it would lose about $4 million in 1998.
Last month it hired an unnamed investment banker to "assist in evaluating alternatives regarding the company's future strategy."
A source who asked not to be identified suggested that large Alabama banks-including Regions Financial Corp., SouthTrust Corp., and Amsouth Bancorp-are potential suitors.
But Stan R. Blakey, a vice president at Republic, said the company is still exploring its options. "There is no sense of urgency," he said. "No one is sitting around here waiting" for an announcement.
At least one analyst, Alan F. Morel at Hilliard & Lyons Inc. of Louisville, Ky., hopes management hangs in there and does not sell.
"It would be a shame to let it go, now that the stock is down and the expenses have been put behind them," he said. "If I were them, I would want to give it a shot to see if they can grow the company."