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In play today — Planned bank eyes deal in H2; Molina sale speculation grows

S&P Global Market Intelligence presents a periodic summary of potential deal activity in the financial sector, including rumored transactions. This summary is based on information obtained on a best-efforts basis and may not be inclusive of all potential deal activity.

Banking

* Lemoyne, Pa.-based Advantage Bank is already in acquisition talks and could close at least one deal within the year. In an interview with American Banker, the de novo's organizers said it was aiming for three purchases by early 2018 and is looking at a wider range of targets than before.

* Proceeds from Prime Meridian Holding Co.'s recent capital raise may go toward acquisitions. The Tallahassee, Fla.-based company, which has three branches, is considering entering South Georgia and South Alabama.

* Banco Popular Español SA is reportedly close to a $500 million deal that will see its Miami-based subsidiary sold to Banco de Credito e Inversiones SA. Bci, which entered the Florida banking scene in 2015 through the purchase of City National Bank of Florida, may have been in advanced negotiations for TotalBank for at least a month.

Also to read: PE firms, asset managers evaluating bids for Home Capital Group; Home Capital Group execs say runoff scenario 'very unlikely'; Cadence eyes M&A targets with up to $3B in assets; SmartFinancial trumpets Alabama deal; will look for more M&A after pause; Horizon Bancorp sets sights on Michigan, Ohio following deal

Financial services

* Apollo Global Management LLC-backed private equity firm Aion Capital Partners and Everstone Capital are interested in buying a stake in India's Catholic Syrian Bank Ltd., which is set to enter into deal negotiations with Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Catholic Syrian Bank has been asked by its Indian regulator to settle differences in pricing valuation with Fairfax.

* A spokesperson for San Francisco-based student loan refinancing startup Earnest Inc. dismissed reports that the company is seeking a sale, Crowdfund Insider reported. Bloomberg News earlier reported that the company was looking to sell itself for about $100 million.

* EviCore, a Bluffton, S.C.-based specialty healthcare benefits manager, is weighing a potential sale of the company or an IPO, Reuters reported.

* Athenahealth Inc. investor Elliott Associates LP plans to submit proposals regarding the former's management, board or operations, and it may push for a strategic review or sale of the company.

Also to read: Report: Shanghai bourse, Nasdaq in talks for stakes in Kazakh exchange; IEG Holdings again extends tender offer for OneMain common shares; Goldman Sachs fund to acquire 12% of Riverstone Holdings for $500M; Report: Harvard Management putting $2.5B in endowment assets on the block

Insurance

* AmTrust Financial Services Inc. is looking to sell 51% ownership in its service and fee business to a "private equity-like" partner in a deal that could raise more than $1 billion in cash, Chairman, President and CEO Barry Zyskind said.

* Analysts say Molina Healthcare Inc. may be on the market to be acquired following the ouster of executives from its founding family. Stifel equity analyst Thomas Carroll said Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc. or WellCare Health Plans Inc. are best situated to acquire the company.

* Wells Fargo & Co. is considering a sale of Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc. in a deal that could be worth $2 billion, Bloomberg News reported. A divestiture of the insurance brokerage unit could become the company's largest on record, eclipsing a March 2016 sale of its crop insurance business to Zurich Insurance Group, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence report.

* Patriot National Inc.'s board formed a new special committee of independent directors to explore and review a range of strategic alternatives for the company.

* Evercore Partners Inc. has been appointed to run an auction for State National Cos. Inc., The Insurance Insider reported.

Also to read: Fidelity & Guaranty Life acquirer eyes more annuity, life deals; Scottish Re Group starts provisional winding-up proceedings; Calif. medical malpractice writer in sale talks with 3 interested parties; AXA to pursue Asia, LatAm acquisitions with proceeds of US IPO; Fidelity National Financial looking for more broker acquisitions; Prudential Financial primed for group insurance acquisitions; Restructuring will not hamper M&A efforts, Great-West Lifeco execs say

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