By Christopher Bjork
(This updates an item that ran at 0625 GMT with additional detail, CFO comments and background.)
MADRID (MarketWatch) -- Spanish bank Banco Popular Espanol SA Wednesday said it has agreed to buy Florida-based U.S. bank TotalBank for $300 million, its first acquisition outside the Iberian peninsula.
TotalBank, which caters mostly to small and midsize businesses and is based in Miami-Dade county, operates 14 branches and has assets worth some $1.4 billion.
By purchasing TotalBank, Banco Popular gains a foothold in one of the main gateways to Latin America, where Spanish businesses are very active. About 57% of Miami-Dade county's population is Hispanic.
Popular's buy follows a recent move by its smaller rival Banco Sabadell SA (SAB.MC), which in January agreed to pay $175 million for TransAtlantic Bank, another small Miami-based lender.
"It's a strategic investment," Popular's chief financial officer Roberto Higuera told a conference call. "We're going to keep it moving, make it a platform to grow in Florida," he said. "We will try to find opportunities, small acquisitions, in order to keep the bank growing."
Popular is Spain's third-largest bank by market value, and has traditionally focused operations in the Iberian peninsula, eschewing ambitious foreign expansion along the lines of larger rivals Santander Central Hispano SA /quotes/comstock/13*!std/quotes/nls/std (STD 17.79, +0.33, +1.88%) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA /quotes/comstock/13*!bbv/quotes/nls/bbv (BBV 19.47, +0.34, +1.78%) , or BBVA.
BBVA in particular, has been actively building a franchise along the U.S.-Mexico border, and now controls one of the largest regional banking franchises in the southern states of the so-called Sunbelt region.
"If you're looking for large Hispanic populations and high growth, you end up in the Sunbelt," said CFO Higuera. Popular said the current management would continue to run TotalBank.
The transaction will be accretive from the first year and will have a limited impact on Popular's capital ratios, the Madrid-based lender said.
At 0900 GMT, Popular shares were down EUR0.2, or 1.5%, at EUR13.59, broadly in line with the Spanish market.
The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. Popular was advised by JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM).
Company Web site: http://www.bancopopular.es