by Gwen Moritz
Posted 5/12/2014 12:00 am
Updated 3 months ago
What a difference a year makes.
At this point in 2013, Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff was a $3.5 billion holding company with eight subsidiary bank charters and so little name recognition outside Arkansas that CEO-elect George Makris Jr. had a standard joke: “We don’t sell chickens and we don’t sell mattresses.”
Before the end of the year, Simmons had outbid Arvest Bank of Fayetteville and Ford Financial Fund II of Dallas for the right to acquire Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock, bringing its total assets to the current level of $4.4 billion.
Then, in March, Makris — now CEO — announced that Simmons would acquire Delta Trust & Bank, chartered in Parkdale but with corporate offices in Little Rock, and its $431 million in assets. But even before closing that deal, Makris was front-and-center again last week to announce the acquisition of $1.9 billion in assets in Tennessee: Community First Bancshares Inc. of Union City and its First State Bank subsidiary.
In the meantime, Simmons had collapsed one of its bank charters, Simmons First Bank of Northwest Arkansas, into its flagship Simmons First National Bank, and announced plans to do the same with the other six by August.
By the end of 2014, if all goes as planned, Simmons’ corporate assets will have nearly doubled to about $6.75 billion, making it the third-largest banking concern headquartered in Arkansas as ranked by assets, behind Arvest Bank of Fayetteville and Centennial Bank of Conway. (Simmons First National Bank will not be the third-largest bank. Makris said last week that First State Bank will continue to operate as a separate Tennessee-chartered bank for at least a year.)
But the transformation of Simmons is hardly the only big change on the Arkansas banking landscape in the past year:
- Centennial Bank, the banking subsidiary of Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, took a huge gulp when it acquired Liberty Bank of Jonesboro — $2.8 billion in assets that pumped Centennial to $6.8 billion. And last month, Chairman John Allison announced yet another purchase, of Florida Traditions Bank of Dade City, which has $312 million in assets.
- Pine Bluff National Bank joined the ranks of banks that dumped geographically specific names by changing its name to Relyance Bank, and then absorbed its sister bank, Hot Springs Bank & Trust Co.
- Arvest acquired $183.3 million-asset National Bank of Arkansas, headquartered in North Little Rock in late 2013;
- The Eudora Bank, one of the state’s smallest charters with $30.5 million in assets, was acquired in December by Commerce Community Bank of Oak Grove, Louisiana;
- First Community Bank of Crawford County was merged into First Bank of Hampton (Calhoun County) in February; and
- Southern Bank of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, made its third Arkansas acquisition in February: $70.3 million-asset Citizens State Bank of Bald Knob.
In all, eight Arkansas bank charters went inactive between October and February, leaving the current count at 120, and eight more are set to disappear as stand-alone banks.
Arkansas Banks Inactive in Past 12 Months
Assets (in millions)*
| Inactive Date
|Liberty Bank of Arkansas, Jonesboro||$2,852.8||Merged into Centennial Bank of Conway||Oct. 25, 2013|
|Simmons First Bank of Northwest Arkansas, Rogers||$245.6||Charter collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||Nov. 2, 2013|
|Metropolitan National Bank, Little Rock||$972.6||Merged into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||Nov. 26, 2013|
|Hot Springs Bank & Trust Co.||$80.9||Merged into Relyance Bank of Pine Bluff**||Dec. 6, 2013|
|National Bank of Arkansas, North Little Rock||$183.3||Merged into Arvest Bank of Fayetteville||Dec. 7, 2013|
|The Eudora Bank||$30.5||
Merged into Commerce Community Bank of
|Dec. 14, 2013|
|First Community Bank of Crawford County, Van Buren||$61.4||Merged into First Bank of Hampton (Calhoun County)||Feb. 3, 2014|
|Citizens State Bank, Bald Knob||$70.3||Merged into Southern Bank of Poplar Bluff, Mo.||Feb. 21, 2014|
Arkansas Bank Charters Set to Become Inactive
|Assets (in millions)*||Expected Closing Date|
|Summit Bank, Arkadelphia||$1,185.9||Acquisition by Bank of the Ozarks Inc. announced Jan. 30||May 16, 2014|
|Delta Trust & Bank, Parkdale||$431.4||Acquisition by Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff announced March 24, 2014||Third quarter|
|Simmons First Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro||$347.9||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||May|
|Simmons First Bank of El Dorado||$214.7||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||August|
|Simmons First Bank of South Arkansas, Lake Village||$198.9||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||August|
|Simmons First Bank of Russellville||$187.1||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||August|
|Simmons First Bank of Hot Springs||$167.9||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||May|
|Simmons First Bank of Searcy||$151.9||Charter to be collapsed into Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff||May|
Pending Arkansas Bank Acquisitions
|First National Bank of Hot Springs||$681.9||Acquisition by First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. of Harrison announced July 1, 2013, with bank to be operated as separate charter announced July 1, 2013, with bank to be operated as separate charter||By June 30|
|Heritage Bank, Jonesboro||$271.2||Acquisition by First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. of Harrison announced July 1, 2013, with bank to be operated as separate charter||By June 30|
*As of last quarterly call report
**Renamed from Pine Bluff National Bank on May 31, 2013
Sources: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the companies
While it won’t change the count of bank charters, another pending acquisition will make a dramatic change in First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc., parent of First Federal Bank of Harrison.
The publicly traded thrift holding company was expected to close by now on the acquisition of two banks, First National Bank of Hot Springs and Heritage Bank of Jonesboro, from their holding company, First National Security Corp. of Hot Springs. The deadline for closing has since been extended until the end of June.
In announcing the deal last summer, First Federal Bancshares said it intended to continue operating the two banks as separate charters. First National of Hot Springs has assets of almost $682 million — larger than First Federal Bank’s total of $549 million at the end of December — and Heritage is about $271 million.
The holding company’s combined assets, then, would reach about $1.5 billion, making First Federal one of the seven largest banking companies in the state.