Wichita Bank Buys Community First Bancshares in $69M Deal

Wichita Bank Buys Community First Bancshares in $69M Deal

Equity Bancshares Inc. of Wichita said Thursday that it had agreed to purchase all outstanding shares of Community First Bancshares Inc. of Harrison in a deal worth about $69 million.

The deal will be the first since Equity went public in November and put Equity in Arkansas for the first time. It will also require Community First Bancshares to dispose of its $8.2 million ownership interest in White River Bancshares Inc. of Fayetteville, which controls Signature Bank of Arkansas and the Bank of Brinkley.

"Our partnership with Community First is an opportunity to strengthen our two companies as one," Equity Chairman and CEO Brad Elliott said in a news release. "We believe that this transaction continues Equity's model of adding mid-size markets to supplement its metropolitan areas of Kansas City and Wichita."

Equity Bancshares is the parent company of Equity Bank, which has $1.5 billion in consolidated total assets and 29 offices in Kansas and Missouri. 

Community First Bancshares is the holding company of Community First Bank, which has assets of about $475 million and five branches: two in Harrison and one each in Berryville, Eureka Springs and Pea Ridge.

"Equity shares our approach to local decision making and straightforward customer service, as well as a similar client approach, culture, and operating styles," Jerry Maland, chairman, president and CEO of Community First Bancshares, said. "We think our customers will benefit from the additional products and service of a strong bank network, dedicated to the continued growth of our Arkansas employees, customers and communities."

Once the deal is complete, Community First Bancshares' directors will continue as Arkansas community board members to Equity's Arkansas markets. Equity will add two directors from Community First Bancshares' board to serve on the Equity board. 

Equity also will retain some managers in its Arkansas market, including Ann Main, promoted to Arkansas market leader; David Morton as Arkansas CEO; and Danny Criner as chief credit officer of Arkansas locations. Criner will also serve on Equity's loan committee.

The deal requires regulatory approval and the approvals of Equity and Community First shareholders. The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.

Community First Bancshares was advised by Stephens Inc. of Little Rock and Bryan Cave LLP of St. Louis as legal counsel.

As of March 31, Community First had total assets of $475 million, net loans of $352 million and $395 million in deposits. Equity had $1.5 billion in consolidated total assets, net loans of $935 million and deposits of $1.2 billion. Equity reported net income of $3.4 million during the first quarter.