Magazine article American Banker

Banc One Auditors Were Seen Visiting Ahmanson Offices

Magazine article American Banker

Banc One Auditors Were Seen Visiting Ahmanson Offices

Article excerpt

A rumor surfaced last week in Los Angeles that Banc One Corp. was about to reenter the merger fray by making a deal for H.F. Ahmanson & Co.

Auditors from the Columbus, Ohio, regional powerhouse were said to have been sighted three times visiting Ahmanson's main unit, Home Savings, supposedly to review the books in preparation for a deal.

Talk of a Banc One-Ahmanson deal was just one of the rumors circulating in California last week. Washington Mutual Savings Bank, Seattle, which has said it was in talks with some California institutions, was said to be taking a hard look at First Nationwide Bank - itself an active acquirer Glendale Federal Bank, and Coast Savings Bank.

But the idea that a big, out-of-state player would reenter the merger market through a California deal supported the notion that the state's rebounding economy could speed consolidation.

Banc One has mostly sat out the current acquisition wave, though it was reported to be a serious bidder for Boatmen's Bancshares. The Columbus bank has been preoccupied with melding its loose-knit confederation of acquisitions into large, statewide franchises, an effort that is largely completed.

William P. Boardman, senior executive vice president of Banc One, declined to comment on the Home Savings talk. He acknowledged, however, that Banc One was interested in California - among other states - and had "looked at" First Interstate Bancorp before it was acquired by Wells Fargo & Co.

"We are an acquiring company and expect to be going forward. There is no question about that," Mr. Boardman said. "We've been involved in virtually every transaction that's taken place, but principally for pricing reasons, have not been competitive with those who have been willing to pay more."

Analyst Michael Granger of Fox-Pitt, Kelton Inc., said buying Home Savings would be consistent with Banc One's strategy of entering a market by buying a top player. …

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