Bank of the Ozarks, Premier American Acquire More Failed Lenders

Bank of the Ozarks Inc. and Premier American Bank, U.S. lenders that have been growing through acquisitions, agreed to purchase two distressed banks each as financial firms fail after the real estate collapse.

Regulators shut five banks today, two each in Florida and Georgia, and one in Michigan, according to statements on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. website. The failures drained $643.2 million from the FIDC deposit-insurance fund.

Premier American, a firm backed by private-equity investors, agreed to acquire First National Bank of Central Florida and Cortez Community Bank in Brooksville, Florida, the FDIC said. Bank of the Ozarks, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, will pick up a total of 19 branches by acquiring First Choice Community Bank in Dallas, Georgia, and Park Avenue Bank of Valdosta, Georgia.

“We are considered one of the strongest and best capitalized community banks in the country,” Bank of the Ozarks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer George Gleason said today in a statement. “We have a long-term commitment to growing our customer base in our Georgia and Florida communities.”

Bank of the Ozarks declined 7 cents to $44.53 in regular trading today on the Nasdaq Stock Market. It has gained 13 percent in the past year.

Banks are closing under stress from commercial real estate loans, tied to property values that fell as much as 45 percent from the October 2007 peak through last August, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The FDIC said 361 lenders have been shut down since the start of 2008, including 39 this year.

Making Acquisitions

Bank of the Ozarks acquires about $975 million in deposits with its transactions. The bank has purchased seven lenders through the FDIC since March 2010, and now has 114 branches.

Premier American, run by Daniel M. Healy, now has 37 branches and about $3 billion in assets after adding more than $420 million in this week’s acquisitions. Healy runs Bond Street Holdings LLC, which raised about $440 million and purchased Premier American in January 2010.

Community Central Bank of Mount Clemens, Michigan, was shut today by a state regulator. Talmer Bank & Trust of Troy paid a premium of 0.25 percent to acquire about $385 million of Community Central’s deposits.

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