Citizens Business Bank finalized its acquisition of County Commerce Bank, the company announced on Feb. 29.
In exchange for all of County Commerce’s common stock and options, Citizens paid $41.25 million — half in stock and half in cash. That equates to $16.79 per County Commerce share.
County Commerce earned 40 consecutive “Five Star” quarterly rankings by Bauer Financial. Citizens, which is owned by its parent company CVB Financial Corp., has produced positive earnings in 155 consecutive quarters and paid a cash dividend in 105 straight quarters. County Commerce shareholders hold approximately 1.16 percent of CVBF’s outstanding common stock.
Ontario-based Citizens, which has maintained a strong presence in the San Fernando Valley, gained County Commerce’s branches in Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo and Westlake Village. Oxnard-based County Commerce’s customers now have access to more capital and additional financial products and services.
“The merger with County Commerce Bank is an exciting opportunity for Citizens Business Bank to expand our presence northward, up the south central coastal area of California. With four new locations throughout Ventura County, and our existing centers in Santa Barbara and Oxnard, we are well positioned to compete in this new territory,” CVBF President and CEO Chris Myers said in a news release. “Joe Kreutz and his team have built a solid bank with strong customer and community relationships. We will build upon their strong foundation and broaden customer relationships through our enhanced product offerings and higher credit capacity.”
Kreutz, the former County Commerce chairman and CEO, said the vast majority of County Commerce employees were retained.
“The merger of County Commerce Bank and Citizens Business Bank is a tremendous opportunity for the Ventura County community as a whole,” Kreutz said in a press release. “We anticipate the blending of our two cultures to be smooth and very positive for our customers.”
Citizens had its second-most profitable quarter in the company’s history in the fourth quarter of 2015, Myers said. The bank also opened an office at 1101 Anacapa St. during the quarter.
Citizens reported $28.6 million in net earnings for the fourth quarter of 2015, or 27 cents a share. That was up $3 million from the fourth quarter of 2014. Total loans increased by $194.8 million for the quarter, or 5.1 percent. Seasonal dairy loans accounted for close to half of that growth, the bank said.
For the year, net earnings were $99.1 million or 93 cents per share. That was down $4.9 million, or 4.69 percent, from the prior year.
At the end of 2015, County Commerce had approximately $256 million in assets and CVBF had approximately $7.7 billion in assets.
When asked during the fourth-quarter conference call if the strong dollar or lower commodity prices have led to a slowdown in Citizens’ distribution and manufacturing customers, Myers said those businesses are doing well and he’s surprised by their profitability.
“I’m very pleased at the way the economy is day-to-day churning in our markets despite the anarchy that is going around the world right now and the stock market and everything,” Myers said.
Myers expects to see construction loans grow in 2016, as well as single-family residential and multifamily housing loans.
Myers did not rule out another potential larger acquisition.
“The (County Commerce) deal does not preclude us from doing a larger deal at the same time,” he said during the conference call.
Citizens stock was trading up 50 cents to $16.03 a share, a more than 3 percent increase, as of 10:10 a.m. PST the day after the merger’s completion.
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