Foreign financial firms whetting their appetite for U.S. banks

With regulators working hard to line up buyers for failed banks, it's of little surprise that foreign financial companies are entering the fray. Indeed, some of the biggest names in international finance have used acquisitions to establish or expand their presence in the United States.

Next up may be Spain's Banco Bilbao Viscaya Argentario. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, among others, reported this week that BBVA would take over Guaranty Bank, the ailing Texas lender that has been saying it's on the brink of failure for weeks. (UPDATE: As expected, Guaranty was closed and sold to BBVA on Friday night.)
Such a move would help BBVA add to its U.S. holdings, which already include Birmingham, Ala.-based Compass Bank. With $36.5 billion in deposits and about 600 offices across the South, it's Alabama's third biggest bank.

From coast to coast, foreign financial firms control regional U.S. banks with thousands of branches and billions of dollars in assets. Here's a rundown of the biggest:
  • Citizens Bank, with $95 billion in deposits and about 1,600 branches, is the biggest foreign-owned U.S. bank. Owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, it has a big presence in Pennsylvania but is arguably strongest in Rhode Island, where it holds more than 44 percent of all bank deposits.
  • HSBC Bank, the U.S. subsidiary of the British banking giant of the same name, has $82.7 billion in deposits and is second only to Chase in New York state, where most of its nearly 500 offices are located.
  • Known as Commerce Bank until 2007, TD Bank boasts $73.5 billion in deposits and is owned by Canada's TD Bank Financial Group. About a quarter of its more than 1,000 branches are in New Jersey, where it's the third-biggest bank by deposits.
  • Spain's Banco Santander bought Sovereign Bank last fall when mortgage losses threatened to sink the 102-year-old thrift. Sovereign's 750 branches are spread across the Northeast and most of its $47.8 billion in deposits come from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
  • Union Bank, the fifth-biggest bank in California with $40.8 billion in deposits, was taken over by Japanese giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group late last year.
  • Another big California bank, Bank of the West, is owned by France's BNP Paribas. It has some 660 offices in 19 states and boasts $34.9 billion in deposits, according to the FDIC.
  • Owned by Canada's Bank of Montreal, Chicago-based Harris Bank is the third-largest bank in Illinois by deposits, with $27 billion. Unlike some of the other banks on this list, which have been bought by foreign companies within the last few years, Harris has been owned by BMO since 1984.
  • Homegrown financial companies Bank of America (BAC), BB&T (BBT) and Wachovia, now part of Wells Fargo (WFC), have all called North Carolina home. So does RBC Bank, owned by the Royal Bank of Canada. It holds $17.8 billion deposits and has 441 branches.

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