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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 5, 2003 18 years ago

Coffee Talk

This week's items: What's next for BB&T?Peoples Bank fetched a high priceTropicana's oranges to remain in BradentonPublix expected to try againGCBR: same paper, new branding

Coffee Talk

What's next for BB&T?

Republic Bancshares Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bill Klich smiled broadly for his photograph on last month's cover of Florida Banking. Inside the magazine of the Florida Bankers Association, the article lauded Republic Bank's "pewter partner" sponsorship of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team.

Turns out Klich is going to have a better year than the Bucs.

The turnaround that Klich engineered at Republic in a little less than four years is the primary reason that the bank is finally getting bought.

On Dec. 2, BB&T Corp. ended months of rumors, which fueled a $12-a-share run-up in the Republic stock price, by announcing it was taking over the St. Petersburg-based bank for $436 million in stock and cash.

Klich worked diligently to tidy up Republic's balance sheet for principal owner William R. Hough in hopes of attracting suitors. Non-performing assets declined 66% since the first of the year, notes Ryan Beck & Co. analyst Steven C. DeLaney, on a par with peer super community banks.

But Republic won't be sold for the kind of money that other Florida banks with at least $100 million in assets have fetched during the past two years. BB&T is paying 2.2 times tangible book value while the median price for the earlier comparably sized Florida transactions was 3.2 times tangible book value.

DeLaney says the lower premium for Republic was probably caused by two factors. Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T may be worried that not all of the problem loans in Republic's commercial real estate portfolio have been cleared out. On top of that, Republic's 0.42% return-on-assets for the first nine months of 2003 lagged behind peers.

BB&T, the nation's 11th-biggest bank holding company, extends its reach into Florida with the Republic deal, which should be complete by the second quarter of 2004. Last year, BB&T made its first Florida acquisition, the Tallahassee-based parent of First South Bank. Republic adds 71 offices from Ocala to Fort Lauderdale to BB&T's Florida network.

Klich will become Florida state president for BB&T. That could keep him busy. BB&T has a reputation for easily digesting acquisitions and analysts doubt Republic is its last in the Sunshine State.

Peoples Bank fetched a high price

As the signs for Sarasota Bank and Republic Bank start coming down, replaced with the signs of their new owners, one sold bank won't change its name. Peoples Bank, based in Palm Harbor in north Pinellas County, won't look different at all, even though the shares of its holding company have been sold to Synovus Bank - for four times Peoples' tangible book value of about $18 million.

"This is more like a merger than a purchase," David Dunbar, chairman, president and CEO of Peoples Bank told Coffee Talk. "Synovus, which owns 40 wholly-owned independent banks, is buying the stock of the holding company; we will be number 41 in their group of banks. Peoples name, board, charter, FDIC filings - they will all stay the same ¦ Customers will not know the difference."

Folks who will notice the change are the shareholders, who will get $14.65 plus three-fourths of a Synovus share for every Peoples share they own.

Tropicana's oranges to remain in Bradenton

Dramatic newspaper headlines about Tropicana's top executives moving out of Florida and North rang out dire messages of doom and gloom. That may have been a bit of hyperbole - the damage to Manatee County is probably more psychological than economic.

Kristine Nickel, Tropicana's director of communications, told Coffee Talk: "Tropicana will remain a major force and a major presence in Bradenton. That is our cornerstone facility, and we will always have a minimum of 1,900 employees there. Everything that links Tropicana to Bradenton will remain - the trucks, the packaging, the oranges. It's just the company's marketing and business offices that will be missing."

Publix expected to try again

In February, Publix filed an application with the county to expand its dry goods warehouse on Sawyer Road, just south of Clark Road. That warehouse is the primary dry goods distribution center for 117 Publix facilities from Tarpon Springs to Marco Island. The expansion was part of the warehouse plans the chain had filed as part of the PID zoning since 1984. You'd think it would have been an easy process. It wasn't.

Angry residents voiced fears about increased traffic, increased noise and increased dangerous conditions that may come along with the expansion. The outcry was persuasive. The application was denied. Even though it was still 30 days before the matter would come to the Sarasota County Commission, Publix pulled the application.

Publix, the good neighbor, spent more than $50,000 replacing gang boards on the loading docks with hydraulic systems to eliminate loud noises. They turned the PA speakers inward and installed a computerized monitor to prevent too-loud announcements. They lowered the speed limit to nine miles per hour and prohibited trucks from idling on the site.

Publix might soon re-file its application, says attorney George Mazzarantani.

GCBR: same paper, new branding

So, you've noticed. There's a new nameplate - or, as the newspaper types call it, a "flag" - on page one.

It was a mouthful when we answered the telephone - "Gulf Coast Business Review." So we decided to shorten the name to "GCBR." You can slur that over the phone real fast.

Not really. In truth, the change in the flag came about, in part, because we never really liked the old one. It was long and clunky. With the new logo, we're hoping we have improved the visual branding of the paper. We think the new GCBR logo has a stronger visual impact than our previous logo.

We're still the Gulf Coast Business Review. But in print, we'll refer to ourselves hereafter as the "GCBR" for short. We'll encourage you to refer to us as "GCBR," too.

Finally, you'll notice we've redefined ourselves to a degree, as well. Previously, we identified ourselves as "Southwest Florida's weekly newspaper for business, law and entrepreneurs." That's not changing, but our emphasis will be as it says under the logo: "Trends, companies, entrepreneurs, law."

Thanks for reading "GCBR."

- Editor

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