BOK still prowls for KC-area banks

Premium content from Kansas City Business Journal - by Jim Davis

Date: Sunday, June 3, 2007, 11:00pm CDT

BOK Financial Corp., runner-up in the sweepstakes for Metcalf Bank, will keep scouting for area acquisitions.

"When we see an opportunity, we will take advantage of it," said Marc Maun, CEO of BOK's Bank of Kansas City, which launched in late 2006.

The acquisitive, Tulsa-based bank holding company can expect to pay dearly for market share here.

Metcalf's purchase by Central Bancompany Inc., which awaits regulatory and shareholder approval after being announced May 24, set a new standard for the metro area at 3.4 times the acquired bank's book value. This multiple compares with an average of 2.1 times book value for 11 bank purchases in the metro area since the start of 2006, according to SNL Financial LC.

Bob Wray, an investment banker who is CEO of The Capital Corp. LLC in Lenexa, said Metcalf's proposed $75 million purchase "makes people stand up and listen."

Take, for instance, George Cook, chairman at Overland Park-based SolutionsBank.

"Maybe now's the time to cash in," said Cook, who would be "hard pressed to say no" to a buyout at a premium comparable to what Metcalf would get.

"But I don't expect to get it," he said.

SolutionsBank, with $276 million in year-end assets and three of its five locations in the Kansas City area, also bid unsuccessfully for Metcalf.

Metcalf, with nearly $280 million in assets and five full-service branches in Johnson County, has an unusually stable deposit base. Nearly 95 percent of its year-end deposits were in core accounts that pay little or no interest and are attracted, instead, by the bank's convenience and other services.

"That's what these acquirers are looking for -- deep-rooted core deposits," Cook said. "There aren't many of us who can come up with them."

Cook traced Metcalf's strength to its longevity. The bank grew up with Overland Park, having been founded two years after the city was incorporated in 1960.

Also providing good coverage of Johnson County is Overland Park-based Bank of Blue Valley, which has six branches and $740 million in assets.

But CEO Bob Regnier said he's not interested in selling, and he owns nearly a third of the stock in the bank he started in 1989.

He said he wants the bank's owner to remain independent as long as its investment return is competitive.

Leaders of other banks with large stakes in Johnson County, including Overland Park-based Hillcrest Bank and First National Bank of Olathe, said their owners aren't preparing to sell.

Jack Sutherland, Enterprise Bank & Trust's Kansas City regional chairman, said this reluctance makes it likely that BOK or other Kansas City bank buyers will need to acquire several smaller banks. Enterprise, based in suburban St. Louis, used a similar strategy to buy two area banks in the past year.

Johnson County's growth prospects probably will continue drawing bankers' attention, said analyst John Adams, an associate director with Sheshunoff Investment Banking in Austin, Texas.

Adams forecast that residents' aggregate annual income probably will grow by $2.6 billion in the next five years.

This increase is the largest anticipated for any county in Kansas or Missouri, he said.

The county's potential is hardly news to bankers, whose branches in the county grew by nearly a fifth -- to 227 -- in the five years ending in mid-2006.

But Adams said the county isn't glutted with banks: Its ratio of bank offices to anticipated wealth creation through 2012 ranks No. 5 among counties in Kansas and Missouri.

Bank of Kansas City's Maun said he expects to open more branches while hiring employees who bring customers with them. The bank's staff has more than doubled in the past six months and now exceeds 65 people, he said.