Usually, where there's smoke, there's fire. But in the case of reports circulating the industry like wildfire in January, that Charlotte, N.C.–based Bank of America Corp. was in discussions to buy Calabasas, Calif.–based Countrywide Financial Corp., there was only smoke. Or so says Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis.
Speaking at a Citigroup Financial Services conference in New York on Jan. 31, Lewis downplayed a potential merger or acquisition.
“We have said, unequivocally, that our strategy is one of organic growth,” Lewis noted.
That Lewis commented at all on the rumors could be a sign that Bank of America is not seriously considering buying Countrywide, says Tony Avila, managing director for home building, building products, and real estate investment banking at JMP Securities in San Francisco.
“Usually when they're doing an acquisition, they don't comment on it either way,” says Avila.
Later at the conference, Lewis said the likelihood of Bank of America buying a U.S. bank this year is “pretty low,” according to a Reuters report.
But Bank of America has been a big acquirer of companies, and it's unlikely that they would change their stripes, says Avila.
“Their No. 1 growth engine has been acquisition, going back to how Nations Bank was formed,” he says. “They have been growing via acquisition, and I don't see any reason for them to stop.”
In fact, now could be the perfect time for such an acquisition, Aliva says.
“The mortgage guys are trading down and are somewhat depressed. But they have a fair amount of cash, and they could be a target,” he says.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charlotte, NC.