Magazine article American Banker

Virginia's First Community Adopting Growth Mentality

Magazine article American Banker

Virginia's First Community Adopting Growth Mentality

Article excerpt

For the last few years First Community Bancshares has been one of the largest Virginia-based bank holding companies, and now it is finally starting to act the part.

After spending years growing in West Virginia, where the $1.5 billion-asset company was originally headquartered and still has roughly 65% of its assets, it announced this year that it would make its first acquisition of a Virginia bank since it moved into the state in mid-1999. Its stock began trading on the Nasdaq National Market on April 1, a move that its management hopes will attract more investors.

First Community's $24.7 million deal for CommonWealth Bank in Richmond, its largest acquisition deal ever, would give it four branches in eastern Virginia and would nicely position it for more deals in the area, according to its chief executive officer, John M. Mendez.

"Focusing on the Richmond part of the state is our strategy, and this acquisition is an important step for us," he said.

Most of First Community's 12 Virginia branches are located near its Bluefield headquarters in the southwestern part of the state, but last year it decided it would target eastern Virginia and specifically sought out $134 million-asset CommonWealth. Mr. Mendez said that First Community's management became familiar with the area through its mortgage subsidiary, United First Mortgage, which is based in Richmond.

First Community is eyeing banks in the Richmond and Norfolk/Newport News areas with between $50 million and $100 million of assets, Mr. Mendez said. There are five such banks in Richmond and its suburbs, and about a half-dozen in other parts southeastern Virginia.

De novo growth is also likely in those markets, but First Community has no interest in moving into the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia, he said.

First Community is also planning to expand in North Carolina, where it has four branches. …

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