Throughout a torrid decade-long buying spree, BB&T Corp. has averaged nearly half a dozen bank purchases a year, making it one of the nations most acquisitive banking companies.
If January is any indication, 2001 could be one of the Winston-Salem, N.C., companys busiest years yet.
BB&T announced plans on Wednesday to buy two Virginia banks, purchases that would put it in a tie for fourth place in market share in the state.
BB&Ts deal to buy F&M National Corp., in Winchester, Va., valued at $1.17 billion would bring it $4 billion of assets.
Though much smaller, the deal for Virginia Capital Bancshares in Fredericksburg, Va., worth $180.5 million, also adds value.
This acquisition gives us the No. 1 market share in Fredericksburg, one of the fastest-growing areas of the country, John Allison, chairman and chief executive of BB&T, said in a news release.
Completing the deals would achieve a goal BB&T sets for itself in each state in its territory: to be among the top five banks in market share. When they are done BB&T expects second-quarter closings for each they would bring to a staggering 53 the number of BB&T bank acquisitions in the last 10 years, a run that raised its asset base from $5 billion to $61 billion.
In the F&M deal, analysts see signs that BB&T may be at the point where it is literally paying for its success. Wall Street has generally applauded BB&Ts acquisitive strategy, and Wednesday wasnt much different. But analysts noted that it is spending a lot to get F&M National Corp. 20 times 2000 earnings, or nearly three times book.
They definitely paid a full price, said Jason Goldberg, an equity analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York. Mr. Goldberg noted that BB&T has had to dig a lot deeper to pay for deals recently, possibly because its own activity in its region has left a scarcity of banks for sale.
The last couple of acquisitions have been at the upper end of their range, Mr. Goldberg said. Still, he and others say that BB&Ts formula is working.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Burney Warren, a BB&T executive vice president who heads the bank acquisition team, downplayed the fact that the F&M and Virginia Capital announcements came the same day.
Its just the timing of the deals and they fit together very well, Mr. Warren said. I dont think there is really any significance, the second deal is very small and weve been doing five to seven acquisitions a year.
Still, after Wednesdays announcement the first time BB&T has unveiled two deals on the same day the company said it would take a break from doing bank and thrift deals for 90 days.
We want to catch our breath a bit, Mr. Warren said Wednesday. The moratorium does not include other financial service transactions, where BB&T has also been aggressive. The bank has bought more than 50 insurance agencies in recent years.
BB&T has stopped to rest before. Last year, after announcing a $6.6 billion deal for One Valley Bancorp, in Charleston, W.Va., announced a six-month hiatus and almost kept its promise, announcing its next purchase after about five and a half months.
Wall Street is likely to continue to extend BB&T management the benefit of the doubt unless it takes much bigger risks, said Nancy Bush, an equity analyst with Prudential Securities.
They would have to do bigger deals and go outside their area, she said.
Though Ms. Bush described last years One Valley deal as risky, she said BB&Ts strategy is generally a good one. Wednesdays announcements are very typical of what they do, she said.
Mr. Warren said that though there would probably be some branch shutdowns to address antitrust concerns from these latest deals, there should be no job losses at the branch level, since BB&T will look to increase staff at some branches to deal with additional products. There will be consolidation at the back-office level, he said.
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