American Realty Closes $53M Deal For 39 Surplus Wachovia Branches

American Realty Capital L.L.C. has closed on a $53 million deal to acquire 39 bank branches from Wachovia Corp. Under an agreement to purchase Wachovia’s surplus bank branches, American Realty plans to buy more than 70 branch Wachovia locations over the next year.Of the 39 branches, 15 have sold primarily to financial institutions. Four more will be leased to banks. In a prepared statement, Nicholas S. Schorsch (pictured), CEO of American Realty said that many commercial banks are returning to retail banking to build their depository bases, provide fee-based services to depositors, borrow FDIC-insured funds at low rates and lend at much higher rates. Schorsch also said that the trend toward retail banking has increased demand for vacated bank branches, which can be opened for business within 90 days because the basic interior design already fits the basic needs of the retail banking business.In mid-April, Wachovia first agreed to sell its surplus bank branches to American Realty Capital II L.L.C., an affiliate of American Realty Capital Trust Inc. American Realty Capital II expected to acquire more than 100 branches worth more than $100 million. Back on May 2, 2008, CPN reported that ARC and an affiliate of Sandler O’Neill + Partners L.P. had inked an agreement to partner on sale-leaseback deals with middle-market banks. Specifically, Sandler O’Neill, an investment bank, will collaborate with real estate finance and investment company ARC to identify banks with assets valued at $500 million and $50 billion. The two firms had at that time recently closed the $41 million sale-leaseback acquisition of 15 properties owned by Pennsylvania-based Harleysville National Bank. “This is a wonderful climate for mid-market banks,” Schorsch told CPN at the time. “These banks are healthy and they want to lend.” Many mid-market banks are enjoying the advantages of being balance-sheet lenders in today’s difficult credit market, he noted. Moreover, small and mid-sized banks often find that moving assets off their balance sheets can be a successful strategy for boosting shareholder value, Schorsch added. ARC’s collaboration with Sandler O’Neill expands a relationship that started while Schorsch led American Financial Realty Trust. AFRT acquired more than 1,500 properties valued at $5 billion. Since Schorsch’s departure in 2006, AFRT has been acquired by Gramercy Capital Corp. in a $3.3 billion deal that closed in March.