UPDATE 3-"Boring" banks make tepid debuts despite soft pricing
* Two banks made market debuts on Thursday
* Capital Bank Financial, National Bank Holdings shares close flat
* Both banks had priced IPOs below range
By Aman Shah
Sept 20 (Reuters) - Two small U.S. banks went public on Thursday to muted reviews despite selling shares for less than planned, as investors remain cautious about a sector that still has many problems in the wake of the financial crisis.
Shares in the banks, Capital Bank Financial Corp and National Bank Holdings Corp, both rose around 2 percent above their IPO price in afternoon trade on their first day.
"Banks are boring and it is difficult for investors to get very excited about a given bank," Jay Ritter, a University of Florida IPO expert said, adding it was hard for one bank to differentiate itself from its neighbor.
Capital Bank Financial and National Bank Holdings were among several companies that raised funds after the 2008 financial crisis from investors betting they could buy on the cheap and sell or float them later at a big profit.
But regional banks have struggled to grow profits over the last two years as the U.S. Federal Reserve keeps interest rates low and many American consumers pay down debt.
The larger of the two newly floated banks, Capital Bank Financial, formerly known as North American Financial Holdings, is led by former Bank of America Corp executives Gene Taylor and Chris Marshall. They raised $900 million from investors in 2009 to buy troubled banks.
Capital Bank operates 165 branches in Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia with about $7.7 billion in total assets as at June 30.
National Bank Holdings is led by former Bank of America and Regions Financial Corp executive Timothy Laney. It has about $5.8 billion in assets as of June 30. It has 101 branches, mostly in the greater Kansas City region and Colorado.
Before Thursday, only two U.S. banks had gone public this year.
Private equity-backed EverBank Financial Corp raised $192 million in May, after slashing the number of shares it was offering and the offer price.
Seattle-based HomeStreet Inc, which was under regulatory orders to boost capital, raised $79 million in February, after delaying its debut for 2 months and cutting its asking price. It had hoped to raise $210 million.
They've done better since listing. HomeStreet shares have since jumped by two-thirds while EverBank stock has risen 26 percent in its first four months of trading.
Across the financial sector, the number of IPOs has been subdued, with 16 companies raising $4.2 billion on U.S. exchanges this year, market intelligence firm Ipreo says, down from 19 financial IPOs that raised $5.2 billion by the same time last year.
"Investors tend to overweight recent experience... if a sector hasn't done well, its difficult to generate investor enthusiasm," Ritter said.
Capital Bank shares closed up 1 percent at $18.19 on the Nasdaq on Thursday while National Bank Holdings closed up 2 percent at $19.60 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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