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Regional banks clash over failed lender

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  • | 6:28 a.m. June 8, 2012
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Two of the newer entries to the Gulf Coast banking market, Stearns Bank and Bank of the Ozarks, recently went head-to-head over a failed bank acquisition in Georgia.

St. Cloud, Minn.-based Stearns, with a branch each in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Venice, won the battle. The prize: Rock Spring, Ga.-based Covenant Bank & Trust, a $95.7 million asset institution federal regulators shuttered March 23. Stearns and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. agreed to a loss-share transaction on $71.6 million of those assets.

Stearns entered the Gulf Coast in August 2009, when it acquired Sarasota-based First State Bank and Venice-based National Bank of Sarasota County, two banks regulators also shut down. Well-known local banker Tramm Hudson is the Florida president for Stearns, which has $1.29 billion in total assets. The bank was founded in Minnesota in 1912.

Stearns' winning bid, according to a May 30 FDIC report, was an all-deposit offer with a $12.9 million asset discount. There were five total bids, the FDIC summary states, and three offered higher discount rates. But the Stearns bid was the one regulators deemed “conforming.”

Little Rock, Ark.-based Bank of the Ozarks was the only other bidder listed in the FDIC summary — banks can bid multiple times for failed lenders — though its specific bids weren't disclosed. Bank of the Ozarks entered the Gulf Coast in September 2010, when it bought Bradenton-based Horizon Bank, which failed after a long battle to survive.

Bank of the Ozarks, with more than $4 billion in assets, has come up short in several other attempts to expand its presence in the Southeast through buying FDIC-shuttered institutions. It was outbid for Clearwater-based Old Harbor Bank last October, for example. It also didn't get the nod last year for bids on a bank outside Atlanta and a lender in the Florida Panhandle.


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