Magazine article American Banker

First California Seen in $200M Sale in Next Week

Magazine article American Banker

First California Seen in $200M Sale in Next Week

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Monks

First California Financial Group (FCAL) is expected by the end of next week to announce a deal to sell itself for $200 million to $215 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bids were due in late July for the Westlake Village, Calif., bank, says one of three sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private. PacWest Bancorp (PACW) in Los Angeles forced First California into play with an unsolicited, all-stock offer in the spring.

PacWest is viewed as a long shot to win the unusually public sales process, two of the sources say, in part because First California's board sought all-cash or cash-heavy bids. The cash preference whittled down the list of able bidders to very large or very profitable banks that have a lot of cash on hand or can generate it quickly, the same two sources say.

Two banks pegged as strong candidates to win the $2 billion-asset company are UnionBanCal in San Francisco and CVB Financial (CVBF) in Ontario, Calif. The $90 billion-asset UnionBanCal is the healthy and acquisitive U.S. banking arm of Bank of Tokyo's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. CVB is a highly profitable $6.5 billion-asset institution that operates as Citizens Business Bank.

Another bank said to be interested but less likely to win the bidding is U.S. Bancorp (USB) in Minneapolis. The $353 billion-asset U.S. Bancorp is interested in expanding in California but has expressed a reluctance to strike pricey deals for small banks.

A UnionBanCal spokesman declined to comment Thursday. Calls to First California and CVB were not returned by deadline.

Activist investors pressured First California to seek a buyer after PacWest made the unusually aggressive move of disclosing on May 8 that First California had rejected its all-stock offer worth about $212 million. …

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