Private-equity firms, which have been stopped by regulators from taking over failed banks, reportedly have found a solution: buy good banks instead.
“Private-equity firms are interested in open-bank deals out of frustration,” Konrad Alt, a former regulator at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency who is now a consultant at Promontory Financial Group, told Bloomberg Business Week.
“They are anxious about missing their opportunity.”
PE firms are buying good banks partly because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) doesn’t want them to buy collapsed banks amid fear the firms will take too much risk with insured deposits.
The FDIC awarded private investors only two of the 83 lenders it closed this year. The FDIC sold the remainder to banks that already had charters and track records, Business Week reported.
Moelis Capital Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and the Carlyle Group are among buyout firms that have agreed to purchase stakes in at least five U.S. banks since April.
While most of these banks have assets of less than $1 billion, their status as banks means they can buy more distressed lenders that can be merged and sold later, a strategy that has proven highly profitable for private-equity investors in the past. Investing in banks gives PE firms the opportunity to spend unused capital in order to avoid having to return it to investors and lose the fees they charge for managing and selling assets.
According to Daily Markets, the FDIC had banks prepay three years of estimated fees, or about $45 billion, and also imposed higher premiums to rebuild its insurance fund.
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