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January 27, 2015updated 04 Apr 2017 1:47pm

Stars in their eyes: RBC City National will target UK growth

Less than a year after taking charge of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) the bank’s new CEO Dave McKay has agreed the bank’s biggest ever deal, the $5.4bn acquisition of Los Angeles-headquartered City National.

By Douglas Blakey

Less than a year after taking charge of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) the bank’s new CEO Dave McKay has agreed the bank’s biggest ever deal, the $5.4bn acquisition of Los Angeles-headquartered City National.

Known as the "bank to the stars", about 25% of City National’s clients are connected to the entertainment industry.

Current City National customers are said to include Michael J Fox; in the past the bank has served Frank Sinatra. The bank’s film financing projects have included The Silence of the Lambs and Driving Miss Daisy and City National is a longstanding sponsor of The Tony Awards. Broadway projects have included providing banking services to shows such as The Book of Mormon.

The deal, internally codenamed Project Laker, a reference to the LA-based basketball team has been in the planning for the past two years.

McKay tells RBI: "It’s a fantastic deal. So many people tried to buy them in the past."

The acquisition will enable RBC to leverage its wealth management, advisory and capital markets assets in the US.

Adds McKay: "We need more diversification of our earnings outside Canada. City National is a true private and commercial bank and with average deposits per branch almost 4.5 times what a normal branch does in the US, you can see the high net worth nature of the customer base."

At first glance the deal – the biggest US banking M&A transaction since Capital One acquired ING Direct US in 2011 – is expensive. RBC is paying 2.6 times City National’s book value.

McKay is at pains to stress that the acquisition has been constructed on a conservative basis and will not impact RBC’s ongoing shares buyback programme.

"At $5.4bn, the deal represents a premium of $1bn" says McKay (compared to City National’s pre-announcement market cap of $4.4bn).

"I see so many avenues to get shareholder value", not to mention an estimated $210m of deal synergies through increased deposits, cost savings and growth initiatives.

City National’s loan book has grown by almost 20% per year since 2011 while deposits have grown by 12% per year in the same period.

In the wealth sector, assets and fee income have grown by 10% and almost 20% respectively

In addition to City National’s attractive client segmentation, the lender’s geographic footprint – strong in LA, San Francisco and New York – will complement RBC.

But it is away from City National’s traditional locations that McKay is especially excited about the RBC City National tie-up.

The deal offers the scope for RBC City National to become the banker to the entertainment sectors in the UK, Toronto and Vancouver.

"We have aspirations to bring this to UK. There is significant customer overlap between Hollywood and the London entertainment sector. City National clients go back and forth between Hollywood and London and for some time they have been begging the bank to come to London.

"They love the service they get from City National in the US but in the UK, they are less happy.

"The combination of our two brands with City National’s technology, customer base and service model means I am very excited about the strategic opportunities."

As for timing, McKay suggests that a major push into the UK market may not occur in year one but year two is feasible.""I really like the UK market and City National presents us with the opportunity to do that in no longer than the medium term."

 

 

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