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Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BK) is growing – at a price. The giant trust bank on Tuesday agreed to buy PNC Financial Services’ back-office operations for $2.3 billion. That works out to 23 times annualized fourth-quarter 2009 earnings. That is a heady multiple for only a marginal boost in market share.

PNC’s shareholders seem to be getting the better end of the transaction. The sale of the PNC Global Investment Servicing (GIS) unit boosts its capital and should help it repay $7.6 billion of bailout money received from the government.

Thanks to the deal, PNC’s Tier 1 capital ratio rises to 6.7 percent from 6 percent. PNC probably needs to raise yet more equity to pay back its Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, but this is a good start.

The advantages for BNY Mellon shareholders look less certain. The bank says the acquisition complements multiple business lines. But Robert Kelly, the chief executive, seems to be coughing up too much cash for just a 4 percent gain in assets under administration. The GIS business has been lumpy. And even using last quarter’s earnings as the basis for analysis – the unit’s strongest quarter of 2009 – BNY Mellon is paying a chunky multiple.

The purchaser reckons it can squeeze out $120 million a year of cost cuts. Taxed and capitalized, those savings are worth around $720 million today. Take that off the purchase price, and BNY Mellon is still paying $1.6 billion for the GIS business – a price-to-earnings ratio of 16 times, which still looks a full price. It’s the same multiple that leading rival Northern Trust (NASDAQ:NTRS) trades on, while BNY Mellon’s own shares trade at just 12 times this year’s estimated earnings.

Source: Bank of New York Pays Full Price for Small Gain