Conway-based Home BancShares, Inc. announced Tuesday afternoon a merger with Liberty Bancshares, Inc., forming the largest in-state bank merger on record for the state of Arkansas.
Home BancShares is the parent company of Centennial Bank and Liberty Bancshares is the parent company of Liberty Bank of Arkansas based in Jonesboro.
Home BancShares’ CEO Randy Sims said that this merger will allow the company to combine the efforts and strengths from both parties.
“I think this will be talked about for years and years to come,” he said.
The merger makes Conway the home base for the second largest in-state banking institution, Sims said, which puts the city on the map as respect and stock continue to grow.
Sims said both Home BancShares and Liberty Bancshares have had a similar foundation in being good corporate citizens.
“When you start looking at what we do, the impact we have on Conway, it will only get better,” he said.
The deal is expected to close late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of 2013 and is subject to both parties’ shareholder approval, regulatory approval and other conditions.
John Allison, chairman of Home BancShares, said this was both a significant and nostalgic transaction for him.
“The stage was set some 48 years ago in Jonesboro, Ark., when I met Wallace and Jama Fowler,” he said. Allison worked next door to the Fowler’s furniture store and they struck up a friendship before either man entered the banking industry.
“It’s always been exciting for me to think about Jonesboro and doing something with Wallace in Jonesboro,” Allison said.
Fowler echoed the excitement for the merger, saying Liberty Bancshares was “tickled to death.”
“Very seldom do you see two organizations that go together and not have any duplication or problems with the people in it,” he said. “This is a true fit. It’s a perfect fit.”
Gov. Mike Beebe said Fowler had been a personal mentor and Allison had been “the epitome of that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Beebe had good things to say about Arkansas banks as a whole, citing recent times when banks across the nation were struggling but local banks were weathering the storm.
“Arkansas banks never struggled,” he said. “Oh, we had a few hiccups, but compared to what happened nationally, our community banks in Arkansas are solid, they’re safe, they’re well run.”
When the merger is complete, the combined company will have $7.1 billion in total assets, $5.6 billion in deposits, $4.5 billion in loans, 151 branches, 186 ATMs and 1,500 employees across Arkansas, Florida and Southern Alabama.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)