BankUnited Stops Sale Process After Price Said to Fall Short

BankUnited Inc., Florida’s second-biggest bank, decided to remain independent after failing to get a takeover offer that met the board’s expectations.

The bank considered strategic alternatives as part of a preliminary process and will instead focus on building its business in Florida, Miami Lakes-based BankUnited said yesterday in a statement. The bank didn’t receive the price it was seeking, said people with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because the talks were private. Toronto-Dominion Bank and BB&T Corp. were among companies in discussions to buy the lender, people with knowledge of the matter said this week.

BankUnited was among U.S. lenders that failed during the housing market’s collapse, prompting regulators to seize its operations and sell most of them in 2009 to a group of private-equity investors including Chief Executive Officer John Kanas. The group pumped about $900 million into the lender and got the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to agree to absorb losses on some mortgage assets before an initial public offering.

The stock fell 9.5 percent to $22.58 at 4:15 p.m. New York time, giving the lender a market value of $2.2 billion. BankUnited had asked for offers by Jan. 17, telling potential buyers it aimed to reach a sale agreement within about two weeks, people said earlier this week.

Donna Butler, a BankUnited spokeswoman, declined to comment on offers for the lender. Maria Leung, a spokeswoman for Toronto-based TD Bank, and Cynthia Williams at BB&T also declined to comment.

“They were likely looking for a very big price,” said Ken Thomas, a Miami-based banking consultant and economist. “It is one of the two premium franchises in South Florida.”

BankUnited’s Reach

BankUnited has more than $11 billion of assets and said in yesterday’s statement that deposits grew to $7.4 billion in the fourth quarter. It had 95 branches at year-end. The bank is Florida’s second-biggest by deposits after Jacksonville-based EverBank Financial Corp., according to data compiled by the FDIC. BankAtlantic Bancorp is the other premium franchise in South Florida, Thomas said.

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

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