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First Hawaiian Bank’s Homecoming

Tina Yuen / PBN
Tina Yuen / PBN

First Hawaiian Bank is on its way to becoming the largest publicly traded company in the state. The bank’s initial public offering takes place in August---but what will it mean for the company? We get some answers from Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier.

First a little history of how Hawaii’s largest bank came to be owned by Paris-based BNP Paribas. In 1998, First Hawaiian merged with San Francisco-based Bank of the West. In 2001 BNP acquired their parent company BancWest. In August of this year, BNP sold just over 24 million shares of First Hawaiian stock in an IPO, representing 18 percent of its ownership stake in the Hawaii bank.

According to First Hawaiian president and CEO Bob Harrison, BNP will sell off more of its stock over time, as market conditions permit, until FHB is completely independent.

The IPO has made First Hawaiian the state’s largest publicly traded company, which is a big deal. But it’s not a change that will be immediately obvious to the bank’s local customers, for whom First Hawaiian’s operations will be business as usual. The biggest changes will be felt by the bank’s leadership, who will bear less of a regulatory burden as they transitions from being part of a $100 billion international bank to a $20 billion independent organization.

Analysts say we can expect to see First Hawaiian maximize its existing business rather than expand, and Harrison confirms that, telling PBN the bank is not currently looking at growing its footprint or diving into new markets.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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