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MegaFon buying Mail.Ru stake; Tencent invests in German map maker

Global Multichannel Market Up 3.1% In 2018 As IPTV Subscriptions Overtook Direct-To-Home Platform

Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Banking

Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A


MegaFon buying Mail.Ru stake; Tencent invests in German map maker

TOP NEWS

* Russian operator MegaFon said it agreed to acquire a voting stake of 63.8% in internet firm Mail.Ru Group Ltd. for $740 million. The transaction is expected to enable the two companies to team up on commercial initiatives. The deal is subject to the approval of Russian antitrust authorities and MegaFon shareholders, among other conditions.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd., Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Ltd. and China-based digital mapping company NavInfo agreed to jointly purchase a 10% stake in German digital mapping company HERE, Reuters reports. The deal is reportedly in line with the push to develop self-driving cars in China, and is expected to close in the first half of 2017.

UK AND IRELAND

* The Irish government will unveil the scope of its rural broadband program in February 2017 to shortlisted bidders eir Group plc, Vodafone Ireland-ESB joint venture SIRO, and Enet, The Irish Times of Dublin reports, citing sources. The Department of Communications is reportedly expected to reveal whether it removed 300,000 homes from the scheme's proposed area, which eir pledged to cover in its commercial rollout.

* Irish regional operator Nova Broadband will invest €250,000 to expand its footprint in Munster and parts of Leinster, Ireland, Silicon Republic reports. The investment will also enable the company to hire more staff and relocate its headquarters to a bigger facility.

* British police and aviation officials urged new drone owners to read recently released rules about the gadgets prior to taking them on their first flight, London's The Guardian reports. The rules are in line with government efforts to crack down on irresponsible drone users.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* German internet startup Relayr, which recently attracted investment from Munich Re, is taking over U.S.-Polish rival Proximetry, Handelsblatt reports. The deal, financial details of which were not disclosed, will broaden Relayr's technology spectrum, partner network and customer base.

* Axel Springer SE appointed Wolf-Ulrich Schüler as deputy editor-in-chief for news at Bild Zeitung as of Jan. 1, 2017. Schüler has served as head of news since April 2015. It was one of six senior editorial appointments.

* German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière proposed a "center of defense against misinformation" in the fight against fake news on social media ahead of the 2017 election, Spiegel reports. The entity's focus would be on education, and responsibility would lie with the Federal Press Office, which is part of the Federal Chancellery.

* There were 400 cyber attacks on German government networks every day during the first half of 2016, 20 of which were "highly specialized," Die Zeit reports, citing Passauer Neue Presse. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution had already warned of attempts to influence the outcome of the 2017 election through cyber espionage and attacks.

FRANCE

* The Paris Commercial Court approved the sale of Viadeo to Figaro Classifieds, a subsidiary of Le Figaro Group, Les Echos reports. The transaction is scheduled to take effect in January 2017. Viadeo announced the resignation of independent administrator and board chair, Françoise Gri, Boursier reports.

* After the resignation of more than 90 employees out of a total of 120 following a protracted strike, news channel iTélé TV, owned by Vivendi SA's Canal Plus SA, became unable to provide live broadcasts for both the Christmas and New Year's weekends, Les Echos reports.

NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG

* The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets ordered Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile Netherlands to stop offering its data-free music service over the alleged violation of Dutch net neutrality regulations. The regulator said it will penalize the company if it continues to offer the service.

* Belgian telecom provider United Telecom acquired Ello Mobile for €300,000, Knack reports. United Telecom, which is owned by Artilium, announced that at least €50,000 of Ello's profit will continue to be given to charities annually.

* Dutch State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker said he wants public broadcaster NPO to publish a detailed overview of its yearly expenses, De Telegraaf reports. If his plan is approved, employee salaries, costs of sports broadcasting rights and other information deemed sensitive by NPO will be disclosed.

* Part of Schiphol Airport's Bluetooth beacon system was briefly taken over by software developer Hugo Visser, AndroidWorld reports. Visser used the beacons to send notifications to hundreds of people passing through to demonstrate security weaknesses.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* Apple Inc. removed the products of Nokia Corp. unit Withings from its stores as a result of a legal dispute with the Finnish tech giant, Recode reports. Withings makes Wi-Fi scales and other digital health and fitness gear. Nokia filed lawsuits alleging that its patents had been violated by Apple in creating mobile devices.

* Modern Times Group wants to sell its free-to-view Nordic TV channels, including TV3 and TV6, Resume reports. The channels have reportedly been up for sale since last spring. MTG's pay-TV channels are not for sale, sources said.

* TDC A/S' Norwegian arm Get TDC said that it won a four-year contract with Norwegian lottery company Norsk Tipping worth 145 million Norwegian kroner. TDC will provide Norsk Tipping with communications services for the lottery company's network of more than 4,000 agents.

* Two of the three Telia Co. AB managers who were accused of sexual harassment have been fired, Aftonbladet reports. The three were suspended last week while the telecom group investigated accusations that they demanded sex from female employees in return for promotions.

* Egmont-owned Norwegian TV channel TV2 reached an agreement with cable company Get on the commercial parts of a new distribution deal, Dagens Næringsliv reports. This means that Get's customers, or about 1.3 million viewers, will not lose access to TV2 channels on Jan. 1, 2017.

SOUTHERN EUROPE

* Rakuten Inc.'s Spanish streaming service Wuaki.tv said it increased its subscriber base by 1 million since the beginning of 2016 and now totals 4 million, Broadband TV News reports. Aside from Spain, Wuaki.tv also operates in the U.K., Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

* Spanish operator R Cable y Telecomunicaciones Galicia SA is holding Vodafone Group Plc accountable for major service disruptions on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 that prevented subscribers from receiving or making mobile calls and accessing the internet, Telecompaper reports. R reportedly blames Vodafone's massive SMS delivery to customers for the outage, a claim refuted by the latter.

* Spanish competition watchdog CNMC set the cost of Telefónica SA's provision of universal telecommunications service in 2014 at €18.8 million, 3.9% lower than the previous year, Telecompaper reports.

EASTERN EUROPE

* The Bosnian government is considering the sale of state-owned operators BH Telecom and HT Mostar, Telecompaper reports, citing Dnevni List. In lieu of a full privatization, the Bosnian government could either sell part of the shares, sell up to a 41% stake in both companies, sell all of its shares and take the companies private, or maintain the status quo.

* Cyfrowy Polsat SA expanded its Mini HD bouquet with the addition of thematic channel Metro, offering films, series, lifestyle documentaries and reality shows, Telecompaper reports. The Polish pay TV operator also added BBC Lifestyle HD to its Family Max HD package.

FEATURED NEWS

The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: Apple teams with Foxconn on expansion; Tencent invests in mapping firm: Apple reportedly tapped its Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to help with its Southeast Asian expansion plans, while China's Tencent partnered with two other investors to acquire a 10% stake in German digital mapping company HERE.

Briefing Room: 2016's biggest influencers in U.S. media, communications: S&P Global Market Intelligence highlights some of the individuals who had an outsized influence on the media and communications sectors in 2016.

The week in OTT: Amazon gets more Bollywood content; Disney-ABC, Snap team up: Amazon.com struck a deal with Indian home video outfit Ultra Media & Entertainment to secure more Bollywood content for Amazon India's Prime Video service, while Disney-ABC Television Group will produce original episodic shows for Snapchat.

M&A Replay: AMC closes Carmike deal; Tribune selling Gracenote: S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a wrap-up of U.S. media and communications deal announcements and completions from Dec. 19 to Dec. 23.

Vodafone Italia, Sky Italia partner on OTT; Amazon launches Prime Video in Spain: In this monthly feature, S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a roundup of news related to over-the-top, video-on-demand and other online video initiatives in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Turkey.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Internet: Mobile/OTT devices dwarf desktop at ABC and NBC in Q3 minutes viewed; desktop stalls: According to comScore Video Metrix data, non-desktop (mobile and OTT devices) viewing was significant for Comcast Corp.'s NBC and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, accounting for approximately 78% and 75% of overall online video viewing in the third quarter, respectively.

Global Multichannel: Global TV Everywhere overview: Western Europe: TV Everywhere services in Western Europe scored an average of 71% for the number of key service features they now support.

Sylvia Edwards Davis, Stefanie Eschenbacher, Koen Pijnappels and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.



Global Multichannel Market Up 3.1% In 2018 As IPTV Subscriptions Overtook Direct-To-Home Platform

Highlights

With year-over-year growth of 14.3%, IPTV was the fastest-growing of the three major pay TV platforms in 2018

Number of multichannel subscribers worldwide is modelled to grow at a 2.4% CAGR over the next five years from 1.07 billion in 2018 to 1.21 billion in 2023.

Global multichannel economy generated $230.06 billion in video service revenues in 2018, which are projected to increase to $245.41 by 2023.

Feb. 18 2019 — In 2018, IPTV overtook direct-to-home as the second-largest multichannel platform in the world by subscribers after cable, accounting for 23.4% of the total market of 1.07 billion. With year-over-year growth of 14.3%, IPTV was the fastest-growing platform in 2018, driven by large subscriber additions in Asia-Pacific and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe. Over the next five years, IPTV is projected to post a 7% subscriber CAGR, second only to pay digital terrestrial television with a projected 8.5% five-year CAGR.

While cable remains the dominant multichannel platform globally, cable subs are modeled to continue declining over the next five years at a 0.3% CAGR, largely due to migration to IPTV in Asia and Western Europe.

China, India and the USA remain, by far, the largest multichannel markets, collectively claiming 57% of the global subscriber total in 2018. China and India alone are expected to account for half of the global market by 2023.

The global multichannel economy generated $230.06 billion in video service revenues in 2018, a 1.1% year-over-year increase, while multichannel penetration breached 60% by year-end. North America remains the most lucrative multichannel region accounting for over half of global revenue.

The effects of cord cutting are only observed in North America where multichannel subscribers, revenue and penetration are projected to decline in the foreseeable future, as well as in a handful of oversaturated markets, including Singapore and Hong Kong. In Europe, the biggest threat to traditional multichannel services is posed by free-to-air DTT and lies in the integration of over-the-top and catch-up TV services into DTT platforms as well as the ability to stream channel packages via hybrid boxes.

Global multichannel market overview

Kagan estimates that in 2018, the global multichannel market grew by 3.1% year over year, down from 3.9% in 2017, as rapid subscriber growth is slowing down in China. After the global multichannel market breached 1 billion subscribers in 2017, 32.3 million new homes adopted pay TV services in 2018 to reach 1.07 billion multichannel homes by year-end. We project that the global multichannel household growth will continue to decelerate in the foreseeable future with most markets across Europe, North America and advanced multichannel markets of the Asia-Pacific reaching saturation. The global market is forecast to post 2.7% year-over-year gains in 2019 with a 2.4% 2018-2023 CAGR.

Global multichannel video subscriptions are forecast to increase to 1.21 billion by 2023, adding 136.3 million net subs over a five-year period, while multichannel penetration is forecast to increase to 61.2% in the next five years, up from 60.1% in 2018.

Global multichannel subscribers by platform

While cable TV is expected to remain the largest platform on a global scale in the next five years, its share is forecast to decline from 52.3% in 2018 to 45.8% by 2023, largely due to analog subscriber churn and market share gains by IPTV operators. IPTV, the fastest-growing of the three major pay TV platforms, is modeled to capture a 23.2% market share by 2023.

Global multichannel revenue

The global multichannel economy generated $230.06 billion in video service revenues in 2018, a 1.1% year-over-year increase, with more than half earned by North American pay TV providers. The region's pay TV operators, however, lost 2.4% revenue year over year due to steep subscriber declines, despite growing average revenues per user. Western Europe remained the second-largest multichannel economy, accounting for only 17.7% of the global total in 2018. Latin American multichannel revenues expressed in U.S. dollars declined in 2018, mainly due to exchange rate fluctuations in most of the region's markets.

Given its comparatively high video service ARPUs, North America is expected to remain the most lucrative multichannel economy in the coming five years, despite being only the third-largest by subscribers and experiencing subscriber declines. The region is modeled to account for 43.2% of global video service revenues by 2023. Despite having the lowest multichannel ARPUs among the six regions analyzed, Asia is projected to overtake Western Europe as the second-largest multichannel economy by 2023, due to the sheer size of its market accounting for 18.8% of global multichannel revenue.

IPTV remains the fastest-growing multichannel platform, except in North America and the Middle East and Africa, where increasing pay DTT rollouts are driving revenue growth. Pay DTT is the only platform in Western Europe that is losing revenues, largely due to falling ARPUs. Although cable experienced overall subscriber declines in Western Europe and Asia in 2018, revenues increased on the back of digital subscriber and ARPU gains.

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Global Multichannel Market Up 3.1% in 2018 as IPTV Subscriptions Overtook Direct-To-Home Platform

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Global multichannel market up 3.1% in 2018 as IPTV subscriptions overtake DTH

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Credit Analysis
Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Highlights

This analysis was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global. This is not investment advice or a stock suggestion.

Feb. 13 2019 — The headwinds are picking up for Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (“Norwegian”), the eighth largest airline in Europe. The carrier has been battling with rising fuels costs, increased competition from legacy carriers, and persistent aircraft operational issues. Norwegian’s problems are a continuation of what have been turbulent months for budget airlines in Europe resulting in a collapse of Primera Air, based in Denmark, near-default of WOW air, Iceland’s budget carrier, and most recently bankruptcy of Germania.

When we pull back the curtain and review the creditworthiness of European airlines to explore further some of the causes for Norwegian’s turbulent period, we see Norwegian’s business strategy and financial structure have made the carrier highly exposed. Coupled with the traditionally slow winter season, the airline may have to navigate through the storm clouds forming on the horizon.

A View From Above

S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (CM2.6), a statistical model trained on credit ratings from our sister division, S&P Global Ratings. The model combines multiple financial ratios to generate a quantitative credit score and offers an automated solution to efficiently assess the credit risk of both public and private companies globally.1 Within CreditModel, the airline industry is treated as a separate global sub-model to better encompass the unique characteristics of this industry.

Figure 1 shows the overview of S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores obtained using CreditModel for European airlines. Norwegian’s weak position translate into the weakest credit score among its competitors. The implied ‘ccc+’ credit score suggests that Norwegian is vulnerable to adverse business, financial, or economic conditions, and its financial commitments appear to be unsustainable in the long term. In addition to Norwegian, Flybe and Croatian Airlines rank among the riskiest carriers in Europe and share a similar credit risk assessment. The airlines with the best credit scores are also Europe’s biggest airlines (Lufthansa, Ryanair, International Airlines Group (IAG), and easyJet). The exception among the top five European airlines is Air France-KLM, which is crippled by labour disputes and its inability to reshape operations and improve performance.

Figure 1: Credit Risk Radar of European Airspace
Overview of credit scores for European airlines

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only.
Note: IAG operates under the British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, LEVEL, IAG Cargo, Avios, and Aer Lingus brands. (January 3, 2019)

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s sister division, S&P Global Ratings, issued an industry outlook for airlines in 2019 noting that the industry is poised for stability.2 It stated the global air traffic remains strong and is growing above its average rate at more than 6% annually. The report also cited rising interest rates dampening market liquidity while increasing the cost of debt refinancing and aircraft leases. Oil prices are expected to settle, and any further gradual increases in oil prices are expected to be compensated by rising airfares and fees. The most significant risks for airlines are geopolitical. Potential downside scenarios include a crisis in the Middle East or other disruptions in oil, causing oil prices to spike. The possibility of trade wars and uncertainty surrounding the Brexit withdrawal agreement represent additional sources of potential disruption or weakening in travel demand.

Flying into the danger zone

Although Norwegian has so far dismissed any notion of financial distress as speculation, it has simultaneously implemented a series of changes to prevent further turbulence.3 The airline announced a $230mm cost-saving program that included discontinuing selected routes, refinancing new aircraft deliveries, divesting a portion of the existing fleet, and offering promotional fares to passengers to shore up liquidity.

In Figure 2, we rank Norwegian’s financial ratios within the global airline industry and benchmark them against a selected set of competitor European budget carriers (Ryanair, easyJet, and Wizz Air). Through this chart, we can conclude that Norwegian’s underlying problems are persistent and the company’s financial results are weak. Norwegian’s business model of rapid growth and a debt-heavy capital structure have resulted in severe stress for its financials. Norwegian ranks among the bottom 10% of the worst airlines in the industry on debt coverage ratios, margins, and profitability. This is in sharp contrast to other European budget carriers, which are often ranked among the best in the industry. On the flip side, Norwegian’s high level of owned assets represents its strong suit and gives the carrier some flexibility to adjust its operations and improve performance in the future.

Figure 2: Flying at Low Altitude
Norwegian’s financial ratios are among the worst in the industry

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)
Note: Presented financial ratios are used in CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (Airlines) to generate quantitative credit score in Figure 1.

Faster, Higher, Farther

Norwegian has undergone a rapid expansion in recent years, introducing new routes and flying over longer distances. Between 2008 and 2018, the carrier quadrupled its fleet from 40 to 164 planes.4 This enabled it to fly more passengers and become the third largest budget airline in Europe, behind Ryanair and easyJet. However, unlike its low-cost rivals, Norwegian ventured into budget long-haul flights. After establishing its new base at London Gatwick, it started operating services to the U.S., South-East Asia, and South America.

As a result of this expansion, Norwegian’s capacity as measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) and traffic as measured by revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) grew nine-fold between 2008 and 2018, as depicted in Figure 3. By offering deeply discounted fares, the carrier was able to attract more passengers and significantly grow its revenues, which were expected to reach $5bn in 2018. However, to be able to support this rapid growth, Norwegian accumulated a significant amount of debt and highly increased its financial leverage. This rising debt is putting Norwegian under pressure to secure enough liquidity to repay maturing debt obligations.

Figure 3: Shooting for the Stars
Norwegian’s rapid growth propelled by debt

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. All figures are converted into U.S. dollars using historic exchange rates. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s strategy to outpace growing debt obligations by driving revenue growth is coming under pressure. The data tells us that expansion to the long-haul market and the undercutting of competitors to gain market share proved to be costly and negatively impacted Norwegian’s bottom line. Operational performance, measured as unit revenue (passenger revenue per ASK) and yield (passenger revenue per RPK), have been slipping continuously since 2008, as depicted in Figure 4. Negative free operating cash flow required Norwegian to continuously find new sources of capital to finance its operations, and profitability suffered. The carrier was able to ride a tailwind of low oil prices and cheap financing for a while, however, the winds seem to be turning.

Figure 4: Gravitational Pull
Slipping operational and financial performance

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Annual Report 2017”, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Interim report - Third quarter 2018”. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s plan to outrun a looming mountain of debt obligations is resulting in a turbulent flight. While growing its top line, the carrier has been unable to convert increased capacity and traffic into consistent profit. With a stable industry outlook and cost-cutting measures in place, Norwegian lives to fly another day. However, any additional operational issues or adverse macroeconomic developments could send Norwegian deep into the danger zone.

Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Credit Analytics models.
Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect®.

S&P Global Market Intelligence leverages leading experience in developing credit risk models to achieve a high level of accuracy and robust out-of-sample model performance. The integration of Credit Analytics’ models into the S&P Capital IQ platform enables users to access a global pre-scored database with more than 45,000 public companies and almost 700,000 private companies, obtain credit scores for single or multiple companies, and perform scenario analysis.

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect® product is the official desktop source for S&P Global Ratings’ credit ratings and research. S&P Global Ratings’ research cited in this blog is available on RatingsDirect®.

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence PD credit model scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.
2 S&P Global Ratings: “Industry Top Trends 2019: Transportation”, November 14, 2018. https://www.capitaliq.com/CIQDotNet/CreditResearch/viewPDF.aspx?pdfId=36541&from=Research.
3 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, “Update from Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA”, press release, December 24, 2018 (accessed January 3, 2019), https://media.uk.norwegian.com/pressreleases/update-from-norwegian-air-shuttle-asa-2817995.
4 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Investor Presentation Norwegian Air Shuttle”, September 2018.

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank buyers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be gone with acquirers now seeing deals as a way to support investments in technology. BB&T touted that prospect when discussing its landmark merger of equals with SunTrust. In the episode, we spoke with S&P Global Market Intelligence colleagues Zach Fox and Joe Mantone about the drivers of BB&T/SunTrust merger, how much i-banks advising on the deal stand to earn and the prospect of other similarly sized transactions emerging in the future.

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A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank acquirers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be receding as more buyers see transactions as a way to support much needed investments in technology.

In the latest Street Talk podcast, we discuss how BB&T Corp. touted that prospect when announcing its merger with SunTrust Banks Inc. and talk about the implications for future big-ticket transactions.

BB&T said the deal, one of the largest in U.S. banking history, will create a premier financial institution fueled by increased capacity to invest in innovation and talent. That stands in stark contrast to other blockbuster deals announced before the financial crisis, when buyers sought to create financial supermarkets or extend their footprints to new markets.

The size of BB&T's landmark transaction might have caught some members of the investment community off guard since Chairman and CEO Kelly King suggested the company was focused on organic growth and internal initiatives to drive costs lower. Still, while the merger of equals, the largest in BB&T's history, might have come as a surprise, it is part of a small group of large deals that received applause from the Street. The projected tangible book value accretion certainly played a role, but King also emphasized that the expansion would allow BB&T to achieve its previously stated goal of investing in technology to meet growing client demands.

Street Talk is a podcast hosted by S&P Global

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"We'll transform platforms to drive out cost, that's important, supporting a more technologically enabled business. And we will gain incremental efficiencies through automation by enabling faster, smarter and more secure way of doing business," King said on a call to discuss the deal.

Investment bankers have suggested others could follow BB&T's move and use cost savings from transactions to upgrade technological offerings. Some advisers even predicted an increase in larger deals before the BB&T/SunTrust transaction surfaced, arguing that regional banks needed to play catch up with the nation's largest institutions and upgrade technology and digital channels to keep their clients happy.

For his part, King emphasized that the world has changed considerably, even in just the last 12 months. King echoed comments made during BB&T's investor day in November 2018, when the company rolled out a new initiative, dubbed "Disrupt or Die," focused on improving efficiency while investing in delivery platforms.

"We talked about disrupt to thrive. And this is it, this is kind of the ultimate disrupt to thrive," King said on the SunTrust call.

That theme has recently become more common in larger bank deals. Chemical Financial Corp. and TCF Financial Corp., for instance, highlighted the opportunity to invest in technology as a combined franchise when discussing their $3.55 billion MOE announced a few weeks ago. The companies said the deal would allow them to invest and innovate more efficiently, enhance customer-facing digital service offerings and streamline internal systems and processes.

WSFS Financial Corp. offered a similar assessment when announcing plans to buy Beneficial Bancorp Inc. for $1.5 billion in August 2018. While WSFS took heat for the price paid on the deal, the buyer outlined plans to use some expected cost savings to invest in digital channels and shrink its branch network considerably.

"This combination allows us to economically address the question in every bank's boardroom," WSFS Chairman Mark Turner said on the call. "That is, how and when are we going to adjust to the new realities of banking delivery to meet the changing customer behavior and their needs."

The Street seems to think it makes sense to spend on technology to play offense. Jeff Davis, managing director at Mercer Capital and a S&P Global Market Intelligence contributor, said in a recent blog post that scale might be required to protect existing returns in the face of improving technology. He said the Amazon effect could apply to deposit pricing as "informed depositors with mobile technology" could force increased competition. Davis said the same thing occurred in the asset management business, where cost-conscious investors utilized widely available information and easy-to-use technology to upend the industry's pricing model.

BB&T seems to recognize the threat of fintech and other technology providers creeping into its space. As King noted on the conference call to discuss the SunTrust merger, he wants to get ahead of that sea change and lead rather than follow.

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