June 18, 2024
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Ventura County Business Bank acquired


Oxnard-based Ventura County Business Bank has been acquired by Royal Business Bank for an undisclosed amount.

Ventura County Business Bank’s two branches, in Oxnard and Westlake Village, officially opened as a subsidiary of Royal Business Bank on Monday, according to a news release, and will continue to operate under their original name until February.

For Ventura County Business Bank, the deal means being brought under the wing of a young, but larger and well-capitalized bank focused on trade finance. For Royal Business Bank, it means the acquisition of $78.4 million in assets and $67.2 million in deposits, plus access to Ventura County’s business community, where it sees opportunities to lend to companies that trade goods through the large, deep-water port in Oxnard.

The deal was first proposed in June. “We think trade finance has room for growth in Ventura County because of the way the Port of Hueneme is growing,” Royal Chief Financial Officer David Morris told the Business Times at that time.

Jerry Lukiewski, CEO of the Oxnard bank, continues to head up the Ventura County operations. “From a customer standpoint, this transaction will be very beneficial.

Our customers will have access to a greater array of products and services, and we will now have a significantly larger lending limit which will make us more competitive in the Ventura County market,” he said in a Sept. 23 news release.

In March 2010, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued what’s known as a “prompt corrective action” — that is, a final warning to get capital levels back up, either through a sale to a larger institution or by selling shares to investors, or risk regulatory failure — to the Oxnard bank after its capital levels dropped precipitously.

Lukiewski told the Business Times in June that he had talked to investors, private equity firms and other banks and that the efforts to shop the bank around and look for partners ultimately bought enough time to avoid regulatory failure. But the deal with Royal is “not a function of capital alone,” he said then. “It’s more of a function of a business plan that will allow you to make money in a low-margin environment.”

It’s hard for a bank to make money simply on a spread — the difference between the interest rate on funds it borrows and loans it makes, he said. And fee income, not traditionally a characteristic of community banks, is drying up under new financial reforms.

Royal Business Bank, meanwhile, has been growing aggressively as it capitalizes on its trade finance niche. Founded in Los Angeles in 2008 with $71 million in initial capital, the Chinese-American bank then expanded to open a second branch in San Gabriel and a third branch in Torrance.

Dollar terms of the Ventura County Business Bank acquisition were not immediately disclosed. Royal Business Bank is privately held, and the Oxnard bank was traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board.