Activist investor puts pressure on Middlefield in Ohio to sell

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An activist investor is pushing Middlefield Banc Corp in Ohio to sell itself or make a change in leadership.

Ancora Advisors, which owns about 5.5% of Middlefield's stock, said in a regulatory filing that there is a "significant disconnect" between the private market value and the current market value of the $1.3 billion-asset company's shares. Ancora estimated that Middlefield’s private market value could be $65 to $75 a share, or a premium of 50% to 70% to where it trades now.

"We are confident that there would be multiple buyers of the bank," Fred DiSanto, Ancora's chairman and CEO, wrote in an Aug. 8 letter attached to the filing.

Ancora said the company and its investors are being challenged by the later stages of the economic cycle.

"Loan growth and profit maximization will require hyper-vigilance by a senior management team that we believe may no longer be up to the task," DiSanto wrote. "Although we believe the best path forward for the bank is a sale to a larger, more liquid partner at a significant premium to today’s price, if the board is unwilling to pursue a sale, then we believe significant change in senior leadership."

Middlefield's net income rose by 6% in the second quarter from a year earlier, to $3.3 million.

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