* Raymond James analyst Michael Rose upgraded Cadence Bancorp. to "strong buy" from "outperform" and moved his price target to $36 after an investor meeting with Chairman and CEO Paul Murphy and Executive Vice President Hank Holmes. Rose wrote that investors may be underappreciating the enhanced franchise value and growth potential stemming from the bank's recently announced deal with State Bank Financial Corp.
In the near term, he believes the bank will benefit from robust loan growth and benign credit trends. The analyst was also optimistic about the longer-term outlook for the company, writing that Cadence could become a southeastern regional name with "top tier growth, operating efficiency, and profitability."
* Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Catherine Mealor initiated coverage of Howard Bancorp Inc., rating the company's stock "market perform" with a $19 price target.
She noted the bank will become the largest community bank headquartered in the Baltimore area following the integration with 1st Mariner Bank, and that it will be well-positioned to build market share and improve profitability. However, the deal has added some drag to the company through additional core deposit intangible costs, pressure on net interest margin and a balance sheet restructuring, and tangible book value dilution was higher than expected, the analyst wrote.