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MENA/SSA news through Dec. 28

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


MENA/SSA news through Dec. 28

* Fairfax Africa Holdings Corp., an investment holding company set up by Canada-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. to invest in public and private equity securities and debt instruments of African businesses with a view to acquiring control or significant influence positions, filed a preliminary prospectus with the securities regulatory authorities of all Canadian provinces and territories for an IPO of subordinate voting shares.

* Lebanese investment firm EuroMena closed its third fund at $150 million, Agence Ecofin reported. The fund is aimed at extending EuroMena's footprint into sub-Saharan Africa.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* German lender Commerzbank AG notified its clients in the Gulf region that it would no longer process euro-clearing transactions beginning next year due to concerns about compliance, insiders told Reuters. A spokesman for the German bank told the newswire that the firm had ceased offering "certain transaction banking services" in individual countries.

* SHUAA Capital PSC acquired a 14% ownership stake in GFH Financial Group B.S.C unit Khaleeji Commercial Bank BSC. SHUAA Capital purchased the stake from Alimtiaz Investment Group Co. in a special auction at a price of 65 Bahraini fils per share, for a total value of 9.6 million dinars.

* Bahrain's central bank decided to submit a petition to the competent court for compulsory liquidation of Future Bank B.S.C. (c), a joint venture between two Iranian lenders, Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Melli Iran Inc., and Ahli United Bank B.S.C.

* National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC Deputy group CEO Abdulla Mohammed Saleh AbdulRaheem is among four executives leaving the lender ahead of its merger with First Gulf Bank PJSC, insiders told Reuters.

* U.S.-based investment banking firm NMS Capital Advisors LLC opened a representative office in Dubai and named Murray Watson and Graham Bell managing directors.

* Saudi British Bank's board of directors recommended the distribution of a cash dividend of 35 fils per share for the second half of 2016.

* Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.'s board of directors approved a streamlining plan that will allow the early retirement of roughly 300 employees between 2017 and 2021, costing the Israeli lender an estimated 300 million shekels, which will be booked in the bank's 2016 year-end report, Globes reported. The plan is expected to result in pretax annual savings of 70 million shekels.

* Israel's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.1% and said it expects it to remain at its current level in the first three quarters of next year, before gradually rising from the fourth quarter. The regulator raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.5% from 2.8%, and said GDP is forecast to grow 3.2% in 2017 and 3.1% the following year.

* Data from Saudi Arabia's central bank showed that deposits at commercial banks hit the highest level this year in November, with the liquidity crisis dampening as the government liquidates foreign assets to pay its bills, Reuters reported. Bank deposits rose to 1.624 trillion riyals from 1.610 trillion riyals in October, the fourth straight month-on-month gain.

* Sukuk issuance from the Middle East will likely rebound next year following an increase in demand, but the market still lacks a considerable investor base for bonds with long maturities, according to Reuters.

* The presidents of Iran and Kazakhstan signed cooperation agreements to enhance banking relations between the two nations by opening new branches and introducing broad banking transactions, Tasnim News Agency reported.

* The Central Bank of Iran authorized a number of banks to trade in foreign exchange at a free market rate in a bid to unify exchange rates, Reuters reported, citing a statement on the regulator's website. Iran has two exchange rates, a free market rate and an official rate that is set by the central bank.

* The Central Bank of Tunisia stated new conditions under which it will provide financial assistance to banks and financial institutions, Il Boursa reported. The conditions include limiting financial assistance to a period of three months, renewable up to three times.

* Egyptian companies unable to repay U.S.-dollar denominated debts following the devaluation of the pound will be allowed to set a fixed exchange rate with lenders, Bloomberg News reported, citing a statement from Federation of Egyptian Industries Deputy Chairman Tarek Tawfik. The central bank will also allow firms to repay their debts in installments over a period of one to three years.

* Moody's said the Central Bank of Egypt's plan to roll out new regulations and customer due diligence procedures for mobile payment services in the country is credit positive for local banks as the rules will help boost financial inclusion and enable lenders to create new business opportunities, Daily News Egypt wrote.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* The National Bank of Rwanda reduced its repo rate to 6.25% from 6.50% to further support the financing of the economy by the banking sector. Headline inflation declined to 6.4% in November from 7.4% in October, and is expected to continue to decline in the coming quarter.* The Central Bank of Kenya said its next monetary policy meeting will be held Jan. 30, 2017. The central bank's benchmark lending rate currently stands at 10%, Reuters noted.

* The Kenya Deposit Insurance Corp. will commence a third disbursement of funds to depositors of failed Imperial Bank Ltd., according to Kenya's central bank. Verified depositors will get the funds from NIC Bank Ltd.

* Barclays Bank of Kenya Ltd. launched a multicurrency prepaid card, enabling its clients to hold up to nine currencies, including the U.S. dollar and euro, in one card, Standard Digital wrote. The card is primarily targeted at importers and exporters, as well as travelers and students abroad.

* National Bank of Kenya Ltd intends to lay off employees and offer an incentive for early voluntary retirement beginning January, Standard Digital reported, citing a circular from Wilfred Musau, the bank's managing director.

* The Uganda Revenue Authority reinstated KCB Group Ltd. unit KCB Uganda to its payment portal. The URA deactivated the bank from the portal Dec. 21 due to a dispute between the regulator and a client of the bank, The East African reported.

* Ethiopia-based Nile Insurance Co. named Hailu Makonnen CEO to replace Melaku Sissay, Addis Fortune wrote. The appointment is subject to regulatory approval.

* Development Bank of Ethiopia named former Minister of Education Shiferaw Shigute chairman of its board, replacing Ahmed Abitwe, Addis Fortune reported.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the sale of $850 million in bonds issued by Mozambique and sold by Credit Suisse Group AG, JSC VTB Bank, and BNP Paribas SA, The Wall Street Journal reported. The proceeds from the bonds, sold in 2013 and meant to develop tuna fishing in the impoverished nation, were allegedly also used to buy military equipment.

* Mozambique finalized the process of estimating the value of assets of collapsed bank Nosso Banco, O País reported. The revenue from the assets sale will be used to repay depositors and creditors who lost money with the bank's bankruptcy.

* The Democratic Republic of the Congo's central bank reduced its GDP growth forecast for the year to 2.5%, citing low commodity prices, Reuters reported.

Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.



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.

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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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