One common question we get from community bankers is: What are banks selling for these days? Most of the time the person asking the question is looking for some multiple of tangible book value. This "Price/TBV" multiple is a seemingly simple metric that many in the industry use to identify pricing trends on a macro-level. Here are the current trends on this data:

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There is a tendency in the industry for some institutions to casually use Price/TBV multiples as a benchmark to gauge whether a particular seller received an attractive premium or whether a particular buyer struck a good deal on an acquisition. The problem is that Price/TBV data can be a misleading metric. This is because reported Price/TBV multiples are often applied in a non-uniform manner based on deal structure and the amount of tangible equity on a particular seller's balance sheet. Those relying on Price/TBV as an apples-to-apples comparison of deal valuations run the risk of being misled by these nuances. This can lead to unrealistic expectations when exploring M&A opportunities on both the buy-and sell-side. 

To illustrate this point, consider the following (overly simplistic) illustrations of three identical banks that each sell for a 1.50x Price/TBV multiple, yet deliver significantly different purchase prices to their shareholders:

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Here are a few takeaways that we think are helpful:

  1. Deal valuations are nuanced and institution-specific. Be skeptical of conclusions drawn based largely on reported or rumored Price/TBV multiples.
  2. There are many factors beyond Price/TBV that inform proper bank valuations including Price/earnings, comparable transactions, expected cost savings and earn-back period. 
  3. Do not pursue or abandon an M&A strategy based on what you believe to be "market pricing," unless you have done your homework. 
  4. Speak with a good investment banker, attorney, accountant, or other trusted advisor who can educate you on market-specific valuation information or connect you with the right expert. 

Of course, our Financial Institutions team at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. is always here to assist either directly or by connecting your bank with other helpful resources.

Wilder is a shareholder with the Banking and Financial Institutions Practice Group at Godfrey Kahn, S.C., a WBA Bronze Associate Member. ‚ÄčClick here to download this briefing as a PDF and for more information.