Pine Bluff-based Simmons First and Relyance banks make expansion moves

Simmons First National Corporation CEO-elect George Makris said Friday that his bank’s $16.9 million bid for Little Rock-headquartered Metropolitan National Bank is in line with the company’s long-term growth strategy.

“I can’t go into anything related to the bid that wasn’t disclosed in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing,” Makris said. “But as far as how we settled on the bid amount, $16.9 million was the minimum overbid level set by the SEC for anyone who wanted to be in the ballgame on this.”

Makris said that an acquisition of Metropolitan — whose parent company is Rogers Bancshares Inc. — would fit well into Simmons’ desire to expand its footprint further into central and northwest Arkansas.

“We have said for some time that we would like to pursue additional assets in good communities and we believe that Little Rock, Conway and northwest Arkansas play well into that strategy,” Makris said.

Simmons is one of a group of three bidders that also includes Bentonville-based Arvest Bank and a Dallas investor, all of whom will participate in a closed auction for Metropolitan on Monday.

“Even if the process concludes Monday the results may not be announced then,” Makris said.

Relyance Bank

Relyance Bank CEO Chuck Morgan said Friday that his bank, whose parent company is Jefferson Bancshares Inc., is buying Hot Springs Bank and Trust.

“Jefferson Bancshares owned 53 percent of Hot Springs Bank and Trust and owns 100 percent of Relyance Bank,” Morgan said. “Jefferson Bancshares bought out the 47 percent minority shareholders in Hot Springs Bank and Trust and the merger with Relyance Bank should be completed sometime around Thanksgiving.”

Morgan said the move is a natural followup to the bank’s decision to change its name to Relyance Bank from Pine Bluff National Bank earlier this year.

“We changed our name in order to more effectively enlarge our bank’s footprint, and the acquisition of Hot Springs Bank and Trust is part of that enlargement strategy,” Morgan said. “This move puts us into the Garland County and the Saline County markets. We have two branches in Hot Springs and two in Hot Springs Village, which is right on the Saline County line.”

Morgan said the move also adds $84 million in assets and $70 million in deposits to the Relyance portfolio.

“We are looking at total assets of $500 million with the acquisition,” Morgan said. “It’s a good, positive step for us. We think that our two banks have compatible cultures and that we will work well together. Their people are part of the integration team with us. We are looking forward to expanding our footprint.”

Morgan said the acquisition will add 27 new staff members to the Relyance Bank team for a total somewhere between 140 and 150.

Jefferson Bancshares Inc. will exchange common stock for that of Hot Springs Bank and Trust’s minority-owned shares of common stock. The transaction is valued at $2,879,624.