Magazine article American Banker

Ark. Company Making a Second Home in Florida

Magazine article American Banker

Ark. Company Making a Second Home in Florida

Article excerpt

Home Bancshares Inc. in Conway, Ark., has nearly doubled its assets in the last 18 months by acquiring three banks in its home state, and its chief executive said it has no plans to slow down.

Last month the $1.5 billion-asset company announced its first out-of-state acquisition deal, an agreement to buy the $222 million-asset Marine Bancorp Inc. of Marathon, Fla. The CEO, John Allison, said that Home Bancshares is eyeing more deals in Florida, which has more opportunity for growth than Arkansas.

"It's the fastest-growing market in the U.S., and to have a foothold in this market makes sense for us," he said in an interview last week.

Mr. Allison knows Marine and its market well. He has a second home in the Florida Keys and is a Marine director.

The acquisition would make Home the first Arkansas banking company with a presence in Florida, to which dozens of out-of-state banks have flocked in recent years, lured by rapid population growth that includes a steady influx of wealthy retirees.

According to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. statistics, the 10 largest banks in Florida by deposit share are all based elsewhere.

And recent merger-and-acquisition activity indicates that interest in the state remains keen. In 14 of the 24 Florida bank acquisitions announced since the beginning of 2004 the buyer was from out of state, according to Highline Data Services. Most were from slower-growing southern states such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Home Bancshares would gain eight branches in the Florida Keys, with about $200 million of loans and $180 million of deposits. …

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