Top 10 2006: Home BancShares Goes Public

by George Waldon  on Monday, Dec. 25, 2006 12:00 am  

The talk started eight years ago when Johnny Allison resigned his nomination to join the board of directors at Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala.
Allison and friends were setting out to build a statewide, publicly traded bank holding company in the mold of Little Rock's First Commercial Corp.
Allison's Aug. 11, 1998, exodus followed Regions' $2.7 billion stock swap for First Commercial, a transaction that made his sixth-largest block of shares worth $50 million.
He didn't stay out of banking long. Within weeks, Allison led an investment group that struck a $5 million deal to acquire what would become the launching pad for today's $2.1 billion-asset Home BancShares Inc.
That deal culminated with Home BancShares going public with a $51 million stock offering on June 23, 2006.
In the first day of trading, more than 1.6 million shares changed hands after the stock opened at $18 and closed at $20. A few days shy of Christmas, shares were selling for $23.
During the nine months ending Sept. 30, Home BancShares recorded a profit of $11.4 million. That represented a 45 percent increase over the $7.9 million reported for the same period in 2005.
The network of 50-plus locations spread among five community banks operate under the First Commercial credo of maintaining separate bank names with local boards and leadership.
Along the way, Home BancShares reactivated two well-known names left dormant by the 1990s banking consolidation in Arkansas: First State Bank of Conway and Twin City Bank of North Little Rock.
During 2006, Home BancShares opened new branches in Searcy and Beebe and two in Florida, where it owns Marine Bank.
Other First Commercial alumni joining Allison are Frank Hicking-botham and Ron Strother. Hicking-botham, a former director and a leading shareholder in First Commercial Corp., is a director at Home BancShares. Strother, former president and chief operating officer of First Commercial's flagship bank, is president and chief operating officer at Home BancShares.
Heading into 2007, the company is poised to further rebuild the old First Commercial footprint of operations in Arkansas as well as take advantage of out-of-state opportunities.
Home BancShares' entry in the ranks of Arkansas-based public companies balanced the departure of Pocahontas Bancorp of Jonesboro.
IberiaBank Corp. of Lafayette, La., struck a $76 million deal to acquire the holding company and followed that with a $130 million transaction to buy Pulaski Investment Corp., the holding company for Little Rock's Pulaski Bank & Trust. Both acquisitions were still pending last week.
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