Only in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2011

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 12:00 am  

By the end of November, the Federal Communications Commission had approved the merger. It closed in December.

No. 6
BOZ Grows, Banks Profit

Banks around the nation continued to feel the lingering effects of
the financial meltdown. While many lenders busied themselves mending fences and rebuilding, Bank of the Ozarks Inc. kept baling hay and adding new fields.

The company made its sixth and seventh FDIC-assisted purchase in April, expanding its total assets by nearly $1.3 billion with First Choice Community Bank of Dallas, Ga., and The Park Avenue Bank of Valdosta, Ga.

The Park Avenue Bank, a $953.3 million-asset concern, marked its largest such deal to date. The tandem buys in April were preceded by Oglethorpe Bank of Brunswick, Ga., in January.

George Gleason, chairman and CEO of Bank of the Ozarks, was pleased with the company's success ratio of competitive bidding on banks across the Midwest and Southeast. BOZ investors were pretty happy too.

The company outperformed just about every bank of comparable size in the nation as profits through the first nine months of 2011 soared to $83.8 million, a year-to-year gain of 77.9 percent.

Its stock soared as well, prompting a two-for-one split effective Aug. 16, the company's third since its IPO 14 years ago. Shares hit an all-time, split-adjusted high of $28.79 on Dec. 16.

Earnings also were good at another acquisition-minded lender, Home BancShares Inc. of Conway. The company recorded net income of more than $45 million during the first three quarters, a 29 percent gain compared with the same period in 2010.

After completing six FDIC-assisted deals in 2010, Home BancShares paid $27.9 million for 17 branches, $378 million in performing loans and $535 million in deposits at Vision Bank of Panama City, Fla. Eight Alabama branches marked the company's first foray in that state.

In August, Home BancShares repurchased its TARP-funded preferred shares and associated entanglements, clearing the way for the company to unilaterally increase its dividend payments.

Privately held lenders such as Arvest Bank of Fayetteville and First Security Bank of Searcy enjoyed sizable bumps in profits.



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