Indeed a shelf registration can be a precursor to an acquisition or almost anything else a corporation may need today or within several years of filing. Usually not meaningful enough to get all worked up about in the short term since corporations like to have a registration on the shelf at all times just to be ready in case they want to do something fast if some opportunity should come up.
Might point out also that most acquistions are made these days for a combination of stock and cash so access to quick cash via a shelf registration is useful. Even in those situations where an offer is being made in all stock, the acquiror frequently will announce a stock repurchase program in conjunction with the acquisition in order to remove some of the dilution incurred from the newly issued shares (thus the need for cash). In fact BB&T has done just that in several of its past acquisitions as have most large bank holding companies.
What are your thoughts on whether there will be a dividend increase this year?
It doesn't appear that they can justify another increase in dividends with the 2005 earnings estimate. The question is with the pressure to increase the dividend can they afford not to increase it and if they do by how much?