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BankUnited Said to Explore Sale After 2011 Public Offering

A car is parked outside of a BankUnited branch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photographer: Eliot J. Schechter/Bloomberg

BankUnited Inc., Florida’s second-biggest bank, is exploring a sale one year after its private-equity owners took the lender public, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

BankUnited is holding talks with potential buyers, said the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions are private. The lender, with a market value of about $2.25 billion as of yesterday, is working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the people said. The company could still decide against a sale.

Toronto-Dominion Bank and BB&T Corp. may be among companies interested in BankUnited, said Ralph “Chip” MacDonald III, a partner at law firm Jones Day in Atlanta who represents banks. TD Bank was among the bidders for BankUnited in 2009 when federal regulators were preparing to seize it ahead of its collapse. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is another regional bank that is boosting its market share in the U.S. Southeast through the planned acquisition of Royal Bank of Canada’s U.S. retail bank.

“BankUnited could be appealing to someone who is looking for a relatively clean, well-capitalized franchise, especially in Florida,” MacDonald said. BankUnited’s market is “long-term attractive, without much credit risk.”

Bank Deals

At BankUnited’s closing price of $23.15 yesterday, the lender traded at about 1.5 times its book value per share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s already higher than the median 1.34 times book value that U.S. banks fetched in takeovers in the past two years, the data show. The data include 25 acquisitions worth more than $100 million.

The stock jumped 5.8 percent to $24.48 at 4:04 p.m. New York time. Before today, the shares had dropped 14 percent since the lender’s initial public offering.

A spokesperson for Miami Lakes, Florida-based BankUnited didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Andrea Rachman, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, declined to comment. Spokeswomen for TD Bank, PNC and BB&T also declined to comment.

The bank raised about $900 million in an IPO last January, or triple what it had earlier registered to sell. Blackstone Group LP, Carlyle Group LP, WL Ross & Co. and Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC still hold stakes in the bank totaling more than 50 percent, based on regulatory filings compiled by Bloomberg.

Private-Equity Backers

The shares sold for $27 apiece in the IPO, compared with the $10.01 the owners paid on average when they took over the bank, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Investors, including Carlyle, Blackstone and WL Ross, sold 25 million shares at $27 apiece for $675 million. BankUnited itself sold about 4 million shares for $108 million. Both amounts exclude an overallotment option.

The bank was among U.S. lenders that failed during the collapse of the housing market, prompting regulators to seize its operations and sell most of them to a group that included Chief Executive Officer John Kanas in 2009. Today the lender is Florida’s second-biggest by deposits after Jacksonville-based EverBank Financial Corp., according to data compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

BankUnited may report net income of $118 million for 2011, according to the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The lender had $11 billion of assets, $6.9 billion of total deposits and operated more than 80 branches as of September.

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