West Virginia's United Bankshares, the second-largest bank based in the state, is about to grow by another $384 million of assets with the acquisition of Eagle Bancorp, a thrift holding company.
The $93 million deal between the two Charleston institutions, announced this week, would boost United's market share in several key areas of the state, particularly Charleston. United would wind up No. 3 in the Charleston market, advancing a notch by pulling ahead of Ohio-based Huntington Bancshares.
"The price is on the high side, but the key to the deal will be cost savings and revenue enhancement," said Ross A. Demmerle, analyst at McDonald & Co. Securities in Cleveland. "Because of their track record, I think they will be able to achieve both of these things."
United, which has $1.8 billion of assets, has made seven acquisitions in West Virginia and Virginia since 1989, but none have been as big as Eagle, the parent of First Empire Federal Savings and Loan Association,
In addition to boosting Charleston market share to 15%, the Eagle deal would bring United into new markets, primarily in the southern and eastern parts of the state.
"We wanted to be in the top three in all the major markets of the state," said Richard M. Adams, chairman and chief executive of United. "With this deal, we'll reach that goal."
If regulators and shareholders approve, United would pay 1.9 times Eagle's book value, or 16 times Eagle's second-quarter earnings. The deal would exchange 1.15 shares of United stock for each Eagle share. As calculated from United's share price Monday, Eagle's stock would be worth $34.21 a share.
The national average for thrift buyouts this year is 1.5 times book value, analysts said.
For that high price United would be getting a high-quality franchise, which according to observers includes a healthy loan origination department. This expertise would bolster United's noninterest income, an area that has been slightly below the peer average, analysts said.
United's new mortgage service area would be headed up by Eagle's two top executives, J. Christopher Thomas, president and chief operating officer, and William W. Wagner, chairman.
"We have not been involved in secondary-market lending," said Mr. Adams. "So this will give us the ability to make fixed-rate loans and sell in the secondary market for the first time."
As for the future of the rest of Eagle's staff and potential branch closings, bank officials said they're expecting to reduce Eagle's noninterest expense by 20% to 25%. They said the details of how that cut would be implemented are still under discussion.
Mr. Thomas, Mr. Wagner, and one other Eagle executive would serve on United's board, which currently has 24 directors.
United has courted Eagle for about two-and-a-half years. EagThis year, Mr. Thomas said, Eagle hired an investment adviser, Wheat First Butcher Singer of Richmond, Va., and began considering offers from United and other banks.
"We felt that by joining with United at this time that we can bring a lot more to the table a lot quicker than if we just continued to grow our own franchise," Mr. Thomas said.
Eagle's earnings and profitability, though impressive, had stagnated of late. Its second-quarter return on average assets had slipped to 1.38% from 1.63% the previous year. Net income for the quarter declined by 4% to $1.4 million.