BB&T Still Prowling for Virginia Market Share

By Gillam, Carey | American Banker, September 1, 1998 | Go to article overview
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BB&T Still Prowling for Virginia Market Share


Gillam, Carey, American Banker


John Allison of BB&T Corp. can't seem to get enough of Virginia.

The chief executive officer of the Winston-Salem, N.C., holding company had been aiming to build a $5 billion-asset operation in Virginia.

But last week, just after announcing a deal that would lift $32 billion- asset BB&T over that level, Mr. Allison said he was hungry for more.

"We're looking to continue building our franchise in Virginia," he said in an interview. "We want to be in the top four or five banks there in market share."

BB&T is No. 6 in Virginia, a rank that would not change even after the closing of the $554 million stock deal for MainStreet Financial Corp. of Martinsville. The deal was announced Thursday.

The $2 billion-asset MainStreet was not Mr. Allison's first choice among Virginia banking companies. He said his sights had been on the $26.3 billion-asset Crestar Financial Corp. of Richmond.

Before Crestar announced in July that it would merge with SunTrust Banks Inc., BB&T had proposed a merger of equals but was rebuffed, Mr. Allison revealed.

"We were very disappointed," he said. "But they wanted to sell out."

With Crestar gone and just about every other sizable Virginia property snapped up by rivals such as First Union Corp. and Wachovia Corp., BB&T's options have narrowed.

First Virginia Banks Inc. of Falls Church, with $9 billion of assets and a strong consumer base, is still out there and might fit well with BB&T's broader commercial offerings, according to analysts.

But First Virginia is not for sale.

"BB&T is holding out hope First Virginia will change its mind," said A.G. Edwards analyst David C. Stumpf. "First Virginia seems to be playing hard to get."

First Virginia chief financial officer Richard Bowman declined to comment about the speculation and reaffirmed his company's commitment to independence.

Meanwhile, Mr. Allison said he sees both bank and nonbank acquisitions as key business lines and intends to expand his company's presence in Georgia, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

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