Should Ally Financial break itself up, Wells Fargo & Co. would be a "likely buyer" of its North American automobile finance business because it is "one of the few large banks" that could afford the estimated $68 billion it would fetch, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts wrote in a research note Tuesday.
Other buyers potentially "interested in parts" of its marquee lending unit, if "not the whole" unit, could include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Capital One Financial Corp., Huntington Bancshares and U.S. Bancorp., KBW wrote.
Ally Financial, Chrysler's former auto finance division, is majority owned by the U.S. government after receiving $17 billion in federal assistance in 2008 and 2009. It lost $250 million in the fourth quarter.
Reuters reported last week that Ally was weighing selling some or all of itself due to problems executing a planned $6 billion initial public offering.
KBW said multiple domestic and international finance companies would be interested various parts of $183 billion-asset company, which is primarily focused on loans to U.S. car dealers but is also involved in online banking, mortgage lending and servicing and insurance.
CIT Group and other financial firms interested in becoming more "bank-like" would likely be interested in Ally's online bank, which has some $38 billion in deposits and would likely fetch $1 billion, KBW said.
Citigroup, HSBC Holdings, private-equity firms and other buyers with global reach would most likely target Ally's international auto finance division, which is most active in Brazil but also operates in Germany, Mexico and China, KBW wrote.
Ocwen Financial Corp. and private-equity shops might be interested in Ally's mortgaging servicing arm, Residential Capital, which has mortgage servicing rights of $1.2 billion on mostly impaired loans, KBW said.
Ally, for its part, said it has no plans to break itself up.
"The allegations are completely speculative," a spokesperson said in an email Tuesday. "We continue to be squarely focused on putting the legacy mortgage issues behind us and growing our leading auto finance and direct banking franchises."
Wells and other companies mentioned as likely buyers either had no comment or did not immediately return calls from ASR sister publication American Banker.
Still, if the North American auto unit is put up for sale, KBW said only Wells has the wherewithal to buy it. The division earned $2.1 billion on $3.2 billion in revenue in 2011.
San Francisco-based Wells has "excess liquidity to buy assets" and a decent toehold already in the heavily competitive auto finance market, KBW wrote.
Acquiring Ally's $32 billion in consumer auto loans and $54 billion in auto dealer loans would give "Wells a much larger industry presence in a line of business where [it] already competes," KBW wrote.
KBW speculated that the auto lending arm would likely fetch $68 billion, based on a 5% premium on a net asset value of $65.1 billion. It said Wells could finance the deal with $55 billion in cash, with most of that raised from selling mortgage-backed securities issued by the government housing agencies. It would raise the rest by issuing debt.