Bank of Texas' $91.6 million purchase of CNBT Bancshares may very well not be its last deal of 2001.

The Dallas subsidiary of Oklahoma's BOK Financial Corp. entered the red-hot Houston market Jan. 17 by completing the acquisition of $424 million-asset CNBT and could announce a new deal as soon as the third quarter, chairman and chief executive officer Fred Ball said. First it has to integrate CNBT.

"We intend to grow some more by acquisition," Mr. Ball said. "It's just a question of finding the right partner and of timing."

As if to emphasize the point, Mr. Ball, 56, has ceded control over much of Bank of Texas' $1.03 billion-asset loan portfolio, assigning responsibility for commercial lending to newly hired president Tom Swiley, 51. Mr. Swiley, who had been managing director of credit products at Bank of America, "has a tremendous background in commercial banking," Mr. Ball said.

Bank of Texas "had grown to the point where it had to have another senior person," he said. "I was working too many 12-hour days."

Now, he said, he can concentrate on the CNBT integration and then resuming the search for merger partners. It will poke around Houston but is not done expanding in Dallas, he said.

"I wouldn't say Houston over Dallas," Mr. Ball said. However, "we have no intention of expanding into Austin or any other new cities anytime soon."

Bank of Texas, which has assets of $1.8 billion, is one of four subsidiaries of $10.3 billion-asset BOK Financial, of Tulsa, which also owns Bank of Oklahoma (its lead bank) and community banks in Albuquerque and in Fayetteville, Ark. Bank of Texas was founded in 1997 and has bought three community banks in Dallas.

"Their strategy is to grow in selected markets and build on that growth through acquisitions," said Joe Roberto, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York.

Wherever and whenever it strikes, Bank of Texas will probably pay in cash. Though its holding company's stock is publicly traded - shares of BOK were trading at $23.95 late Thursday - more than 80% of the shares are owned by its chairman, George B. Kaiser. That limits its stock's value as merger-and-acquisition currency.

"Selling entities don't want shares of a company" that is so dominated by one stakeholder, said Thomas D. McCandless, senior bank analyst at CIBC World Markets in New York.

BOK had record earnings last year, $100.1 million. Mr. Roberto and Mr. McCandless predict that the holding company and its Texas subsidiary will avoid asset-quality problems and finish the year with solid growth.

Mr. Ball said Bank of Texas should have double-digit core growth in 2001, even though BOK has decided to hold back loan growth at its four subsidiaries.

"We're all going to be more cautious," he said. "Given the economic environment," slowing loan growth "is the prudent thing to do."

BOK's loan portfolio grew more than 18% in 2000, to $5.5 billion.

Mr. McCandless said he would be surprised if Bank of Texas doesn't unveil another acquisition agreement soon.

"I'm assuming there will be more," he said. "It's just a question of what properties are available."

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