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Arvest, Bear State Get Approval for $391M Deal

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Arvest Bank of Fayetteville is closer to completing its $391 million all-cash acquisition of Bear State Bank of Little Rock, the two companies announced Monday.

Arvest and Bear State’s holding company, Bear State Financial Inc., said in a news release that the two had received “all required regulatory approvals” for the deal, first announced in August, and that they expect it to officially close “on or about April 20.” The deal, the biggest ever for Arvest, was originally expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017 or first quarter of 2018.

A move to convert Bear State branding and systems to those of Arvest is occur later this year, the companies said.

As of Dec. 31, privately held Arvest had about $16.7 billion in assets, making it the second-largest bank headquartered in Arkansas by total assets, but it is the largest ranked by in-state deposits and number of in-state branches. Publicly traded Bear State (Nasdaq: BSF) had assets of about $2.2 billion.

To satisfy the Federal Reserve’s order of approval, Bear State said it will sell its two branches in Mena (Polk County) to First Financial Bank of El Dorado, which has nine locations and assets of $930 million. 

The two Mena branches had deposits of about $58 million and loans of about $30 million as of Feb. 28. The closing of the sale of the Mena branches is expected to occur within 180 days after the closing of the Arvest/Bear State deal.

Bear State Bank operates throughout Arkansas, southwest Missouri and southeast Oklahoma. Arvest operates in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.

In Arkansas, the deal will put Arvest for the first time in Jonesboro and Monette in Craighead County; Manila in Mississippi County; Dierks and Nashville in Howard County; Ashdown in Little River County; Mount Ida in Montgomery County; Glenwood in Pike County; De Queen in Sevier County; and Waldron in Scott County.

Outside Arkansas, Arvest will enter the new markets of Golden City, Kimberling City, Lamar and Marshfield in Missouri; and Broken Bow and Idabel in Oklahoma.

For First Financial, the deal means an expansion of its operations in Mena, where it already has a loan production office.

“For over 20 years, First Financial has had a loan production office in Mena and we’re excited to expand our retail footprint into Polk County and Western Arkansas,” Chris Hegi, CEO of First Financial Bank, said in a news release. “As a strong community bank, we look forward to investing in the people and businesses in the Mena area. We expect a very smooth transition for employees and customers alike, and look forward to continued success at this location.”

First Financial Bank has six locations in Union County, one in Pulaski County and two in Mississippi. The bank said it is one of the nation’s leading poultry lenders and that it offers specialized lending for pharmacists and veterinarians. It also has a nationwide farm and ranch lending division.

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