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Fonalledas’ Unibank In Florida Inspires Acquisition Interest

Potential buyers of 25-year-old private bank come from Florida, Puerto Rico


October 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Miami-based UniBank, which has a link to the Fonalledas of Puerto Rico, could be acquired for between $80 million and $100 million in the next two months, according to a recent report in a Florida newspaper. The Fonalledas family, best known perhaps as the owner of Plaza Las Americas, is a majority shareholder in UniBank’s holding company.

Some neutral observers note there are some important matters to be settled regarding the possible acquisition, notably the purchase price. If the price were determined by multiplying the bank’s annual net income ($6.7 million in 2003) by 12, it would fetch $80.4 million, in the low end of the suggested price range. Using a multiplier of 14 would bring the price up to some $94 million.

Among the other options for determining the price is to use the company’s book value (total assets minus intangible assets, debts, and other liabilities).

Established in 1979 as the Ponce de Leon Federal Savings & Loan Association, UniBank today has eight branches in South Florida and two in the Orlando area. According to Hoover’s Online, residential mortgages represent 45% of the bank’s loan portfolio and commercial real-estate loans 30%, with the balance composed of construction, business, and consumer loans.

UniBank, which operates as a private federal savings bank, has shown consistent performance gains. Hoover’s Online indicates it generated $32.3 million in sales in 2003, and its net income was $6.7 million, for a one-year growth of 17.6%. According to the Office of Thrift supervision, UniBank had $479 million in assets as of June 30. Reports quoting statistics of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. indicate UniBank had average return on assets of 1.51% and return on equity of 17.39% for the first half of the year.

Given the bank’s performance, it isn’t surprising there are quite a few players considering its acquisition. Unconfirmed reports indicate at least three Florida-based banks are interested in purchasing UniBank. Local sources say Banco Popular North America and two other Puerto Rico-based banks are pursuing UniBank.

Such a purchase would certainly advance Banco Popular’s recent efforts to expand on the U.S. mainland. This year, Puerto Rico’s largest bank acquired California-based Quaker City Bancorp and Florida-based Kislak National Bank. The transactions should be finalized in the first quarter of 2005, pending regulatory approvals.

If the UniBank purchase does go through, it would be the second community bank to be acquired in Miami-Dade County in the past two months, according to the Florida newspaper. UniBank officials weren’t available for comment, nor were representatives of the Puerto Rico-based banks allegedly interested in the acquisition.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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