CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- First Union Corporation (NYSE: FTU) has announced a definitive agreement to purchase Charlotte-based Bowles Hollowell Conner & Co., one of the nation's premier merger and acquisition investment banking firms dedicated to middle market clients. The combined company will have among the strongest middle market M&A and private equity teams in the country. The acquisition is currently expected to close by April 30, 1998, subject to regulatory approval and other conditions of closing. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Steve Cummings, chairman and chief executive officer of the privately-held Bowles Hollowell Conner, will report to Ken Thompson, First Union executive vice president and co-head of Capital Markets. Cummings will maintain responsibility for the combined company's merger & acquisition advisory and private equity sponsors groups. Upon closing, the firm will operate under the name Bowles Hollowell Conner, a division of the First Union Capital Markets Group. "Bowles Hollowell is an ideal partner for First Union based on their track record of superior execution, strong client relationships and middle market focus," said Thompson. "They are among the best, and most reputable, players in the national M&A market and strategically enhance our private equity sponsors and specialized industry activities." This merger, combined with our recent acquisition of Wheat First Butcher Singer, vaults First Union years ahead in key investment banking areas." First Union closed its acquisition of Richmond-based Wheat First Butcher Singer on January 31, 1998, giving the company equity underwriting capability and enhanced M&A and retail brokerage efforts. Founded in 1975, Bowles Hollowell serves private equity groups, middle market companies and large corporations throughout the nation. The firm has closed approximately 140 transactions since 1994. Bowles Hollowell's capabilities enhance First Union's textile and healthcare focus, while adding expertise in the automotive, food products and distribution, building products, technology and aerospace & defense industries. Private equity groups, which directly invest in leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations of private companies, constitute the largest segment of Bowles Hollowell's client base. The firm has represented more than 75 different private equity groups in at least one transaction in the last 5 years. More than 275 groups are closely covered by Bowles Hollowell. Industry-wide since 1996, private equity groups have raised nearly $18 billion in 400 public equity offerings for their portfolio companies, totaling approximately $1.2 billion in underwriting fees; nearly $30 billion in 165 high yield offerings resulting in $925 million in fees; and $113 billion in 485 loan syndications generating fees of $1.7 billion. "The potential of this merger is tremendous," said Cummings. "First Union has built a strong, comprehensive capital markets product line, which fits perfectly with Bowles Hollowell's well-established client base. Likewise, we have the opportunity to leverage our strong M&A advisory capabilities across First Union's vast middle market client base on the East Coast and throughout the nation. As we evaluated our options for the future, aligning ourselves with First Union was hands-down our top choice." "We have made great strides in building our Capital Markets business over the past four years, and this deal with Bowles Hollowell propels us even further ahead in several key business lines," said Thompson. "As the numbers show, our opportunity for market penetration and increased profitability is substantial." First Union Capital Markets and Wheat First Union are the investment banking divisions of Wheat First Securities Inc., the Section 20 subsidiary of First Union Corp. Together, they provide a comprehensive range of capital markets solutions to corporate clients including equity underwriting, merger and acquisition advisory, high yield finance, private placements, loan syndications, risk management and public finance. Charlotte-based First Union Corporation is the nation's sixth-largest bank holding company with assets of $157 billion as of Dec. 31, 1997. The company serves approximately 12 million customers throughout the East Coast and nation.
SOURCE First Union Corporation