Magazine article American Banker

Prosperous Mark Twain Holds the Cards When a Buyout Deal Is on the Table

Magazine article American Banker

Prosperous Mark Twain Holds the Cards When a Buyout Deal Is on the Table

Article excerpt

Think of Mark Twain Bancshares - the St. Louis bank whose merger talks with an undisclosed institution failed last week - as the most magnificent house on the toniest street in town, an analyst suggested.

The house is not for sale, but passersby gawk, and some even inquire about buying it. The owners politely invite them in but ultimately turn them away without a deal.

That's likely what occurred last week when the $2.8 billion- asset Mark Twain, one of the most profitable banks in the country, said merger talks had collapsed - the day after confirming it had been negotiating a sale, said Joseph A. Stieven, bank analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in St. Louis.

"I don't think they have a for sale sign out front, but they easily have one of the most desirable properties around," Mr. Stieven said. "It's not hard to believe that they could end up in discussions."

Though most believe last week's events officially put the St. Louis jewel in play, the bank still holds all the cards. It also holds a lot of the stock - about 25% is owned by insiders - making it difficult to claim management is not acting in the interest of shareholders.

But if the bank is in play, it's nothing new, said John P. Dubinsky, Mark Twain's chief executive.

"In part because of our track record we have been very visible for a number of years," he said. "So we're no more or less in play than we've always been. But the fact is there are not many others around that have the ability to talk to us about improving our situation. …

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