The M&A market for banks remains steady relative to Street expectations for a quicker pace, given well-documented earnings and regulatory challenges that smaller institutions face. Year-to-date through August 19, 2013, there were 137 announced bank and thrift transactions, which equates to about 210 deals on an annualized basis. This compares to 251 announced deals in 2012 and 178 in 2011. Pricing, as measured by the average price/tangible book multiple of 117%, is comparable to median pricing observed the past few years; however, P/E ratios have declined as earnings have recovered. The median P/E for 2013 was 23.2x, compared to 33.0x in 2012.

In particular, the specialty finance sector has seen a steady pace of transactions. According to SNL Financial, there have been 43 acquisitions of specialty finance companies year-to-date by banks and non-banks, for an aggregate value of $7.4 billion. There were 80 deals valued at $10.8 billion in 2012 and 70 deals valued at $36.0 billion in 2011. Since 2008, the average price/book multiple has ranged between 187% (2011) and 78% (2010). The median year-to-date price/book multiple was 124%, while the median P/E was 7.8x. Sector pricing averages should be taken with a grain of salt as the homogeneity in the banking sector does not apply to the same degree in specialty finance.

While interest in mortgage banking may be waning with rising rates, other specialty finance sectors, such as commercial real estate (CRE), are receiving more attention as banks and non-banks return to the sector.  As an example, Capital One Financial Corporation (COF) announced on August 16, 2013 that it would acquire Beech Street Capital for an undisclosed price. Beech Street was founded in 2009 by long-time banking executive Alan Fishman along with employees from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other lenders. Beech Street focuses on multi-family lending as a Fannie Mae “Delegated Underwriting and Servicing” (“DUS”) lender. Such firms are approved to underwrite, close, and deliver most loans without a prior review by Fannie Mae. Capital One is acquiring one of the 24 designated DUS firms and will presumably gain a competitive advantage in underwriting multi-family loans at a time when the sector is benefiting from a resurgence of apartment construction.

Another transaction of note is the July 22, 2013 announcement that PacWest Bancorp (PACW) will acquire CapitalSource Inc. (CSE) for $2.3 billion of stock and cash. Pricing equated to 169% of June 30 tangible book value and 19x consensus 2013 EPS. Although CapitalSource’s primary subsidiary operated as a bank via its California industrial loan charter, the Company is more akin to a commercial finance company in a bank wrapper. PacWest will obtain a prodigious asset generator that will be funded with its core deposits.

Acquisitions of specialty finance companies by banks are not a panacea for challenges that face the industry; however, in some instances a transaction that is thoroughly vetted, well-structured, and attractively priced can provide the buyer a new growth channel while also obtaining revenue and earnings diversification. At Mercer Capital we have three decades of experience in valuing and evaluating a range of financial service companies for banks, private equity, and other investors. We would be happy to assist you in evaluating an opportunity that your institution may be considering.

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