Wells Fargo (WFC) chairman and chief executive officer John Stumpf said Tuesday that the company's string of asset acquisitions from European banks may be over.
"We still are kicking tires. Our toes aren't as sore as they were in the past. There's probably a little less kicking going on," Stumpf told investors at the Goldman Sachs U.S. Financial Services Conference in New York.
Starting in late 2011, Wells Fargo embarked on a series of asset purchases from European banks, which were struggling with the effects of the Euro crisis.
The purchases included a $3.3 billion portfolio of commercial real estate loans from the remains of the failed Anglo Irish Bank; a $1 billion asset-based lending operation from Bank of Ireland; a North American energy business from BNP Paribas of France; and a $3 billion subscription finance portfolio from WestLB of Germany.
Stumpf said that Wells Fargo loved those deals, but he suggested that the prices the San Francisco-based bank paid are no longer available.
He attributed the more recent slowdown in activity to the fact that European banks have sold certain assets, and that they face less funding pressure than they did earlier in the Euro crisis.
"If we don't ever do another deal, that's fine," he said. "If we do a few more, that'd also be terrific."
In other remarks, Stumpf said that he hopes Democrats and Republicans in Washington can come together to agree on a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. But he also said that avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, the scenario where taxes would rise and spending would fall in January, assuming no bipartisan deal is reached, is not going to be enough to spur rapid economic growth.
Stumpf said that he does not believe that merely avoiding the fiscal cliff means that "the dam will open, and all this spending will automatically happen."
"We need a growth agenda for the country," he said. "Really we need Washington and public policy to get on the same page as the private sector, and really to engage both so that we can move forward."
Stumpf also said that he believes the company has room to grow in the mortgage origination business, even though it is already the nation's No. 1 home lender with a roughly 30% market share.
Stumpf noted, however, that half of Wells mortgage origination business is aggregated from small lenders.
"And the other half is the primary origination business. And yes, that's a large share," Stumpf said. "But you know, we have 10% of deposits in this country. And everybody takes deposits, and not everybody makes mortgage loans. So I still think we have opportunity to do more in that business."