Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) can continue to grow through "selective acquisitions" as European banks shed loans and business units, the bank's chief financial officer said on Wednesday.
In 2011, the fourth-largest U.S. bank bought $3 billion in U.S. commercial loans from Irish banks and purchased asset-based lender Burdale Capital Finance Inc. Last month, it agreed to buy BNP Paribas SA's energy lending business in a deal that is expected to close in the second quarter.
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The San Francisco-based bank has capitalized on opportunities to buy loans and businesses from European banks forced to met higher capital requirements.
"We haven't seen any reduction in the rate at which acquisition opportunities are occurring out there," Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan said at an investor conference in New York.
Wells Fargo, with sufficient capital and liquidity, has been in a position to make these purchases while some of its U.S. competitors have "different challenges," Sloan said.
"It's this part of the cycle where you see good opportunities," he said.
In addition to making money from interest payments on acquired loans, the purchases also give Wells Fargo an entree to new customers to whom it can try to sell other products and services, he said.
Wells Fargo also expects to make more loans to new and existing customers, Sloan said. The bank's total loans outstanding increased by $9.5 billion to $769.6 billion in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter. The majority of the growth -- $5.6 billion -- came from lending to businesses, a trend experienced at other banks in the fourth quarter.
"We expect loan growth to continue," Sloan said.