Business First Bancshares, Inc., parent company of Business First Bank and American Gateway Financial Corp., the parent company of American Gateway Bank, have signed a definitive agreement to merge.
In a Thursday (July 24) joint press release, the two Baton Rouge-based companies announced the combined banks will operate under the Business First brand. They expect to close the deal during the fourth quarter of 2014. The transaction is subject to conditions, including approval by shareholders of American Gateway Financial Corp. and other customary regulatory approvals.
Business First Bank President and CEO Jude Melville told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune the decision to merge was not just about cost-saving, but rather following the industry consolidation trend. “It’s about creating a foundation for future growth,” he said, “…the general pressure in the industry pointing towards growth and the need to deal with increasing cost and diversification of portfolio.”
American Gateway has 10 Baton Rouge-area banking locations, including East and West Baton Rouge Parishes, Livingston and Ascension Parishes. Business First has centers in Baton Rouge, Shreveport/Bossier City, Lake Charles, Lafayette and Covington, and a loan production office in Houma.
Melville said the company is looking to expand into New Orleans in the next couple of years. “We anticipate with the resurgence of New Orleans we will be there sooner or later, but it depends on finding the right bankers.”
Executives expect the merger to create the largest community bank headquartered in Baton Rouge, measured by deposits and one of a few community banks with statewide coverage. Both companies combined will operate out of 16 locations, with over $1 billion in assets, $870 million in deposits, $700 million in loans and $100 million in equity.
“We see a lot of synergies for our clients and employees in this partnership,” said Don Ayres, president and CEO of American Gateway Bank. “Banking convenience will be enhanced with the addition of five new markets. Our balance sheet will be larger and more diversified, and clients will have access to a broader platform of business banking products and services and commercial bankers who have been the cornerstone of Business First’s success.”
Business First Bank recently centralized its enterprise risk management operations and reorganized its community banking franchise into three geographic regions—Capital Region, Western Region and Southeastern Region.
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Renita D. Young is a business reporter based in Baton Rouge. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504.352.2548. You can also keep up with all of her local updates on Twitter @RenitaDYoung and through NOLA.com Baton Rouge on Facebook.
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