Banner Year in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2013

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Readers were kept on their toes in 2013: Bank companies blurred lines by merging, Democrats felt the hangover of the 2012 elections while the GOP continued dancing with the stars. Some developers got lucky with new business while others felt the pull of gravity in the courtroom after breaking bad. Here are the top 10 business stories of the year, as reported by Arkansas Business.

1. Banks Consolidate

Arkansas hosted a hearty round of bank consolidations during 2013. The deals stretched from the historically large to the smallest of the small.

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway expanded its footprint in the state in a big way with the $320.1 million cash-stock purchase of Jonesboro’s Liberty Bancshares Inc. The October merger transformed publicly traded Home BancShares into a $7 billion-asset concern.

The transaction also positioned its Centennial Bank to become the second-largest bank based in Arkansas and united long-time friends and bank moguls: Johnny Allison, chairman of Home BancShares, and Wallace Fowler, chairman and CEO of Liberty.

Allison was one of three executives honored as Community Bankers of the Year by American Banker, one of the financial services industry’s top trade publications.

Meanwhile, the largest Arkansas bank, $13.9 billion-asset Arvest Bank of Fayetteville, embedded itself deeper into the Pulaski County market with the $9.6 million cash purchase of National Banking Corp. of North Little Rock in December.

NBC is the parent company of $186.7 million-asset National Bank of Arkansas.

Rogers Bancshares Inc. of Little Rock finally was driven to bankruptcy in July by the horrendous loan losses generated by its Metropolitan National Bank.

The Chapter 11 move facilitated the $53.6 million sale of Metropolitan to Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff in November. The bankruptcy auction of Metropolitan, a historic first for an Arkansas bank, expanded the market penetration in central and northwest Arkansas for Simmons.

The sale effectively closed the books on Rogers Bancshares, the largest TARP recipient in Arkansas at $25 million. It poised the Simmons First logo to become the new corporate crown atop the Metropolitan Tower in downtown Little Rock.

First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. of Harrison struck a $124 million deal to acquire First National Security Co., the holding company for First National Bank of Hot Springs and Heritage Bank in Jonesboro.

The cash-stock deal, expected to close at year-end, will nearly triple the publicly traded company’s assets to about $1.4 billion.

 

 

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