Fifth Third CEO Foresees More Bank Deals

(Reuters) – U.S. banks will begin more aggressively buying one another in the coming year, Fifth Third Bancorp Chief Executive Kevin Kabat said at an industry conference on Wednesday.

Kabat, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference in New York, said smaller banks weakened by the 2008 global financial crisis and recession will be bought by stronger rivals in the coming months.

Kabat said Fifth Third, a Midwestern-focused regional bank, would look at potential deals with the goal of “deepening our density” in existing markets.

“Whether we do anything will depend on the opportunities,” Kabat said.

The Cincinnati-based bank is one of the top three lenders in about half of its markets, Kabat said, and the bank has a long-term goal to increase that to about two-thirds of its current locations.

Fifth Third is also one of 31 U.S. banks that will be part of the upcoming Federal Reserve annual stress test.

Kabat said the bank’s capital plans for next year will include a higher dividend payout and share repurchases.

Fifth Third shares declined 0.8 percent, or 10 cents, in mid-day trading to $12.22.

(Reporting by Joe Rauch in Charlotte, North Carolina)