Bank of the Ozarks' offer for C1 Financial has surely gotten some other Florida bank chiefs mulling their options.
The deal, at better than two times tangible book value, is one of the 10 priciest of the year and immediately raised the question whether other banks in the resurgent state — even some viewed as recently as last week as potential buyers — should consider putting themselves on the block, too.
After all Florida is popular among growth-minded banks because of its increasing population, booming real estate market and lure of cheap deposits.
And supply levels are on the sellers' side. Bigger targets are simpler for acquirers to pursue, and there are not that many that fit the profile: just over a dozen banks based in Florida have between $1 billion and $4 billion of assets, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"It increases the scarcity value of the remaining players," said Michael Rose, an analyst at Raymond James.
It makes sense for the $9.3 billion-asset Bank of the Ozarks in Little Rock, Ark., to buy the $1.7 billion-asset C1 in St. Petersburg, Fla., rather than cobble together several smaller deals because of the time and energy it takes to convert back offices and get regulatory approval, said Brian Zabora, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.
Buyers would find an appealing class of potential targets, including the $2.3 billion-asset Stonegate Bank in Pompano Beach, the $3.2 billion-asset Seacoast National Bank in Stuart and the $3.9 billion-asset CenterState Bank of Florida in Winter Haven, that are growing organically and by acquisition.
However, buyers could hit a roadblock if the C1 deal drives sellers' price expectations too high.
"This will raise the bar for anyone who would want to purchase one of the remaining larger independent banks," said Thomas Rudkin, a principal in investment banking at FIG Partners. "This could also push some pricing up, especially since there are not many $1 billion plus banks that are for sale."
To be sure, it is unclear whether any of these banks would shift gears and look to sell, experts noted. CenterState announced two of its own deals in October, and Seacoast announced a deal last week. Stonegate, CenterState and Seacoast did not return calls seeking comment.
With C1 selling, the $3.4 billion-asset USAmeriBank in Clearwater could be the next to decide to sell. It is one of the last "private banks of notable size" in Florida "that many people may say, 'Hey, they could be next,'" Rose said.
USAmeriBank is "always looking for ways to enhance shareholder value," Chief Executive Joseph V. Chillura said in a written statement, but "we are not actively looking at sale opportunities, and we continue to focus on our efforts to grow the bank organically, which have been highly successful."
Pricing may come down to what acquirers can realistically afford to pay, industry observers noted. Bank of the Ozarks is able to offer healthy premiums because its own stock trades at four times tangible book value. Not many other institutions post those kinds of numbers.
"Sellers may want that kind of price but not everyone can pay it," said Peyton Green, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. "The reality is the multiples are moving higher but not significantly higher."
Buying C1 would quickly expand Bank of the Ozarks' presence in Florida. It would jump to No. 32 in the state in terms of deposit market share from No. 54; and it would enter the top 10 in the Tampa metro area, Rose said.
Bank of the Ozarks feels comfortable with its pricing for C1 given its branch network in the deposit rich areas, team of bankers and its C1 Labs, an innovation group that was established to develop proprietary technology, Chairman and CEO George Gleason said in an interview Tuesday.
He declined to comment on whether this deal or the declining number of larger Florida community banks would affect future deal pricing.
There are "unique characteristics of this bank that make this transaction far more valuable than the average bank would be," Gleason said. "You don't often find an institution that has the unique technology innovation that this bank has."