Online dating for bankers

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It’s unlikely that many of the region’s banks can close their profitability gaps on a stand-alone basis, so banks need to reconsider their options for earning their cost of equity and improving shareholder value.

One promising way to do so involves a revival of mergers and acquisitions activity throughout the sector.

And senior management has been largely focused on other pressing topics, such as rising capital requirements, the implementation of major regulations like Mi FID II and EMIR, and, for some of them, ongoing litigation.

Yet, although few significant deals have closed, pre-merger discussions and newly announced deals are already on the rise, driven by several strategic levers: the need for greater portfolio rationalization, the desire to increase operational efficiency, and the pursuit of strategic growth.

Clearly, there is good reason to expect a revival of genuine, value-creating M&A activity among European banks.

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Banking leaders are struggling to find sustainable solutions that would enable their institutions to produce returns close to or greater than their cost of equity.

Indeed, banks may be reaching a limit on the degree to which senior bankers can close their firm’s profitability gap on a stand-alone basis.

That, in part, is why we believe the industry is about to experience an increase in the sector’s M&A activity, which currently stands near 20-year lows.

Yet banks are already selling off some units to lower pressure on their capital ratios, so sellers late to the game will likely find deal values considerably less attractive.

First movers will have a further advantage in finding suitable partners, since the number of strategically attractive targets, and those large enough to make a substantial difference to the acquirer’s profitability, is limited.

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