Market Disruption Opens New Doors for Bear State Financial

by George Waldon  on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 12:00 am  

“There’s disruption in all three markets. Some of these are generational opportunities.”

Those regional market disruptions in Arkansas are caused by three acquisitions during the past 18 months:

  • In the northeast, Jonesboro's Liberty Bancshares Inc. was purchased by Home BancShares Inc. of Conway.
  • The bankruptcy acquisition of Metropolitan National Bank by Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff put surplus branches in play in the northwest as well as in central Arkansas.
  • In southwest Arkansas, Arkadelphia's Summit Bancorp Inc. was bought by Bank of the Ozarks Inc. of Little Rock.

"Anytime there's change, we think that creates opportunity for us," Wewers said. "Anyone can build a branch, but banks are built by people. With the right people, you can make the brick and mortar work."

The assimilation process of merging the operations of two bank holding companies involves sorting through technology platforms, policy and procedures and more.

"You have things you can teach us, and we think we can bring some things to the table," Wewers said. "Nothing is sacred. We're looking at everything.

"It's a real opportunity to learn for all of us."

Tracking a Merger

The acquisition of $984 million-asset First National Security Co. of Hot Springs was announced by Bear State Financial Inc. of Harrison in July 2013.

But talks between the parties date back to early 2012. Those initial negotiations produced a would-be $150 million agreement in June 2012.

The proposal entailed 8 million shares of Bear State common stock, $57 million cash and $30 million worth of preferred shares.

First National rejected the offer, and the companies parted ways in July 2012. Taxable consequences were identified as the deal killer.

The two were back at the negotiating table in June 2013, which led to an offer of $74 million cash, 4.5 million shares of common stock and $5 million in preferred shares.



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