RALEIGH — Royal Bank of Canada says it feels no added pressure to resume U.S. acquisitions despite aggressive moves by a major Canadian competitor.
W. James Westlake, the chairman and chief executive of RBC Bank, the Canadian company's U.S. operation, said he is in "no way surprised" that Toronto-Dominion Bank is buying South Financial Group Inc. in Greenville, S.C. — a move that would give TD its first banking operations in the Carolinas, where RBC Bank is based.
"This doesn't change anything for us," Westlake asserted in an interview Tuesday after a speech here at the North Carolina CEO Forum. "We already have a good core footprint, and our results are improving. Our model is proving to be very resilient, and there is no pressure on us to make an acquisition."
Despite the new TD Bank presence in the Carolinas and Florida, Westlake saw just a "minor overlap" in the markets served by the Canadian-owned banks. For instance, RBC had 18 branches and $930 million in deposits in the Charlotte area at June 30, where the South Financial unit Carolina First Bank operates four branches with $162 million in deposits, according to the latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. In Tampa, South Financial's 17 branches and $756 million in deposits dwarfs RBC's five branches and $135 million in deposits.
H. Lynn Harton, South Financial's chief executive, said in an interview Monday that selling to TD "absolutely" creates a growth opportunity in the Southeast. "This is the very beginning of a strong expansion for us," he said.
After significantly increasing its reach in New York and Florida through its 2008 deal for Commerce Bancorp, Toronto-Dominion continued its expansion in the Sunshine State this year with three failed banks — Riverside National Bank of Florida, First Federal Bank of North Florida and AmericanFirst Bank — that added 69 branches and $3.1 billion in deposits.
By contrast, RBC Bank has not done a deal since early 2008. Westlake said the company has been more focused on diversifying its product lineup, such as capital markets and wealth management, than aggressively expanding its retail bank. It has had major management changes, naming former Wachovia Corp. executive Reggie Davis president in September and replacing Scott Custer with Westlake a month later.
Investors often overlook the different U.S. strategies employed by RBC and TD, said J. Bradley Smith, an analyst at Stonecap Securities. "Our view is that TD made their decision years ago to proceed with a U.S. retail banking strategy, … so they don't have any choice but to look for acquisitions."
Royal Bank might even sell the $26.1 billion-asset RBC Bank, Smith said. "We think they have a lot of options for the U.S. market," he said, "but if you're not a buyer, you could just be a seller. But they're not tipping their hand either way."
Royal Bank of Canada is to report its quarterly earnings this month, according to a call report filed with the FDIC. RBC Bank lost $68.4 million in the first quarter, but Westlake was upbeat about the company's prospects.
"Our consumer and small-business lending operations are trending better," he said. "Unemployment is still a big concern, and we are still concerned about commercial real estate and how that will play out over the next few months."
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