This guest column is reprinted from Bove’s client letter. It originally ran under the title, “Wave of Acquisitions: Legislation Will Drive Small Banks Out of Business.”
I have repeatedly argued that the new banking bill was created by a group of hysterics who know little or nothing about banking. Another example of this “fact” is the contradictory themes in the legislation related to small banks. If the regulators do what Congress has mandated, the new law will drive these companies to sell their businesses or simply fail. It is creating a significant opportunity for bank acquirers to buy small banks at distressed prices; accretive deals.
Congress wants the following:
1. Big banks to shrink.
2. Small banks to take over a larger responsibility of lending to the economy.
3. Banks to increase their capital.
4. Banks to increase their liquidity.
5. The Fed to orchestrate stress tests every year and those stress tests to touch all banks over $50 billion in size.
6. Trust preferred securities to be eliminated from the banking system.
7. To create a new program making $30 billion available to small banks to lend to small businesses.
This is what the hysterics did not think about when they were writing their law.
1. By eliminating Trust Preferreds as a source of capital, not only did the Congress remove the primary source of funding for small banks but it increased the need of these banks to raise capital from other sources as the existing Trust Preferreds mature.
2. When the smaller banks are stress tested on an annual basis, as is now the law, the likelihood is high that the test will have very stringent requirements concerning commercial real estate. This will hit the smaller banks hard since they tend to be relatively larger lenders to this part of the economy than to, say, consumers or businesses.
3. Thus, the stress testing will reveal a need for additional capital.
4. Further, it appears that the new capital rules, to be unveiled in November, will require higher capital ratios under the Tier 1 system.
5. Net result small banks will be required to develop more capital without being able to use their preferred method for raising funds.
The small banks will not get the money they need. If I am wrong and they do get the money it will dilute the ownership position of the current holders of the stocks. These owners are far more likely to want to sell their stock than sit back and be diluted.
They will sell these banks. With many banks seeking to sell at the same time, a buyers’ market will develop. The big banks will get accretive deals and they will get bigger. The small banks will continue to fade away. Thus, the law has within it the seeds to make it impossible to meet the goal of shrinking the big banks and stimulating the small banks. What is most surprising is that the small banks supported this legislation.
Question 1: A $30 billion lending program requires bank capital to support it. Where is that capital going to come from?
Question 2: How long is going to take the hysterics to repeal this law?
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