First Horizon “needs to do a deal”

If a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, of course we know it made a sound.

Can the same be said when a group of investors and analysts gathered for a bank industry conference talk among themselves about how a certain Memphis banking company needs to hurry up and put its capital to work to land an acquisition deal, even when that bank isn’t presenting anything at the conference?

We’ll see. For now, it’s worth noting that Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp. (the parent of First Tennessee Bank) was not one of the presenting companies at the Gulf South Bank Conference last month at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New Orleans, where attendees feasted for three days on oyster, booze, bank industry insight – and rumor.

Nevertheless, one of the phrases uttered repeatedly during the conference by investors and analysts had to do with First Horizon. It was said that “Bryan needs to do a deal,” a reference to First Horizon president and CEO Bryan Jordan.

(Consider, for what it’s worth, that it was generally an unsolicited comment).

The scuttlebutt from bank sources – and those at the conference – is that the market has been waiting for First Horizon to put its war chest of capital to work and snatch up a competitor. Jordan has frequently said publicly that when the right deal presents itself, he’ll pull the trigger.

Attendees at the New Orleans conference, though, said pursuing a deal is going to get harder the longer Jordan waits. Over the last three months, the company’s stock price has dropped about 10 percent, and some industry insiders and analysts have concerns about First Horizon that include a perceived mortgage repurchase risk.

If buying isn’t an option, the conference attendees said Jordan could always consider a sale of the company. Names bandied about included PNC Financial, BB&T and SunTrust Banks Inc.

Kind of reminds me of an old saying: if you don’t have a seat at the table, chances are you could be on the menu.

Dansette

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