JP Morgan Prowling for Regional Banks, CEO Says


Take heart bank investors.

JPMorgan Chase is still hunting for regional banks to take over, Chairman and Chief Executive James Dimon said Wednesday.

Jamie Dimon
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Asked by a reporter if the pending takeover of Bear Stearns would preclude it from pursuing other deals for retail banks, Dimon had a one-word answer: "No."

The comments came the same day JP Morgan Chase reported a 50% decline in quarterly earnings, though the results were better than analysts expected.

Later, in a conference call with analysts, Dimon said JPMorgan has enough management "bandwidth" and enough capital, that the bank could attend to a consumer bank deal if it found something attractive for the right price.

"We actually have the management teams and the systems and the back office that can execute things like this, so that's what makes it possible," Dimon said.

"I would tell you several years ago it would not have been possible." As one of the biggest U.S. commercial banks and by far its healthiest amid the credit crisis, JPMorgan is frequently cited as the likely acquirer of any number of smaller banks.

Dimon, who has expressed interest in expanding Morgan's retail banking business, recently has been linked to the takeovers of Seattle's Washington Mutual and Cleveland-based National City .

Last week, there were reports JPMorgan approached the country's largest savings & loan, although WaMu chose instead to sell a large stake to private equity firm TPG Capital.

During the analyst call, Dimon declined to comment on WaMu. "We're not going to comment on it. You should assume we look at everything," Dimon said.

Dimon, who initially focused on integrating his Bank One with JPMorgan Chase following their 2004 merger, has stayed on the sidelines for years and strengthened the balance sheet.

But even as rivals such as Citigroup , Bank of America and Wachovia suffer embarrassing setbacks from ill-timed deals, analysts are eager to see Morgan help consolidate the banking industry.

UBS banking analyst Glenn Schorr told CNBC that the field was ripe for Morgan, with rivals hamstrung by credit problems and a long list of sellers seeking a deep-pocketed buyer.

"This is the moment Dimon has been waiting for," Schorr added.