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Comerica CEO downplays M&A ambitions

Comerica Inc. remains "very focused on organic growth," Executive Chairman, CEO and President Curtis Farmer said on a call to discuss fourth-quarter 2019 earnings, pushing back against the idea that the bank is a likely acquirer in the near term.

There have been no changes to Comerica's strategy, and the Dallas-based company retains its longstanding interest in potential targets in metropolitan areas in Texas and California that would present a good strategic fit, Farmer said.

He said those criteria are "fairly narrow" and that the bank has "done two acquisitions in the last 20 years." Comerica bought Houston-based Sterling Bancshares Inc. in 2011 for about $800 million, and it bought California-based Imperial Bancorp for about $1.3 billion in 2001.

Farmer also downplayed potential opportunities that might be created for Comerica by the pending merger of equals between the Texas-based Texas Capital Bancshares Inc. and Independent Bank Group Inc.

"There's nothing that strategically changes our focus," he said, adding that "we are in some different segments and [have] some different customer focus than" the banks involved in recent high-profile deals.

Comerica's branch network also overlaps with Truist Financial Corp., which was created in a $31 billion MOE in 2019, and with First Horizon National Corp. and IBERIABANK Corp., which are involved in a pending MOE.

Comerica also disclosed that it sold its health savings account business in the fourth quarter of 2019, generating a $6 million gain.

Interim CFO James Herzog said the operation was a "small-scale business for us," and that the deposits associated with it were "negligible."