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Regional banks BB&T, SunTrust join to create nation's 6th largest bank, 3rd largest in Baltimore

Southern banking giants BB&T and SunTrust announced they would merge in a $66 billion deal, the first big bank merger since the chaos of the 2008 financial crisis.

The deal would create yet another financial titan in the U.S. The combined company will be the sixth-largest retail bank in the country, putting BB&T and SunTrust in the ranks of other megabanks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

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The banks said Thursday that the combined company will have $442 billion in assets, $301 billion in loans and $324 billion in deposits serving more than 10 million households, including some in Baltimore.

BB&T and SunTrust are the fifth and sixth largest banks serving the Baltimore region, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Their combination will push them up to third with $8.3 billion in deposits, leapfrogging PNC and Wells Fargo, but still behind Bank of America and M&T.

The two banks' market share will make them a formidable presence across the South, particularly in growing parts of the country like Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn. The companies operate banks from Pennsylvania to Florida, and as far west as Texas.

Big bank mergers had been nonexistent after the financial crisis, when a flurry of government-directed mergers created a handful of megabanks. Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia, JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual and Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch. Most bank mergers stopped after the crisis because the banks had to clean up their balance sheets, and the regulatory environment under the Obama administration made mergers more difficult.

Since that time, the gap between the size of the big Wall Street banks and the regional banks like BB&T, SunTrust, PNC Bank, Fifth-Third and others has only widened. The only bank with the size and scale of the new merged BB&T-SunTrust would be Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, which has a large presence in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains. But even U.S. Bank with $456 billion in assets is dwarfed by the next largest institution, Citigroup, which has more than $1.4 trillion in assets.

The Trump administration is taking a much softer stance on bank regulations, and has appointed dozens of new business-friendly policymakers into critical positions at the nation's bank regulators. Further, Congress passed a law last year to ease some of the rules put into place under the Dodd-Frank Act after the financial crisis.

“The regulatory environment is much easier for something of this size to happen,” said Brian Klock, an analyst with KBW.

Klock said he believes that with attention of the SunTrust-BB&T deal, as well as the easier regulatory environment, more large bank mergers may be coming.

Under the terms of the deal, SunTrust shareholders will receive 1.295 shares of BB&T for each share they own. BB&T shareholders will own about 57 percent of the combined company and SunTrust shareholders will own the rest -- creating roughly a merger of equals.

The new merged bank will have a new name, the companies said, and will be headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. The combined company will keep a presence in Winston-Salem, N.C., where BB&T is based. It will keep a wholesale banking center in Atlanta, where SunTrust has its headquarters.

In the Baltimore metro area, BB&T has 69 branches with $5.47 billion in deposits for a market share of 7.5 percent, according to the FDIC. SunTrust has 39 branches and $2.87 billion in deposits for just under 4 percent market share.

Bank of America is the market leader with $21.3 billion in deposits and a nearly 30 percent market share.

BB&T and SunTrust have about 740 branches within two miles of each other, or about 24 percent of all branch locations run by the banks. BB&T Chairman and CEO Kelly King said during a conference call that the companies will be “careful and methodical” about which branches they close.

BB&T and SunTrust said they expect to acheive “cost synergies” — savings — of $1.6 billion by 2022.

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“It's an extraordinarily attractive financial proposition that provides the scale needed to compete and win in the rapidly evolving world of financial services,” King said in a prepared statement.

Shares of SunTrust jumped 10.2 percent in Thursday trading, while BB&T's stock closed up 4 percent.

The deal still must be approved by federal banking regulators and shareholders but is expected to close before the end of the year.

The Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.

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