Business First expanding in northern La. with Richland State deal

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Business First Bancshares in Baton Rouge, La., has agreed to buy Richland State Bancorp in Rayville, La.

The $1.6 billion-asset Business First said in a press release Monday that it will pay $50.8 million in cash and stock for the $305 million-asset Richland State. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Business First said in a separate release that it will raise $21.5 million by selling 900,000 shares of common stock. Proceeds would be used to fund the cash portion of the Richland State deal. Business First could sell another 135,000 shares if there is enough demand.

Richland State has seven branches, $188.7 million in loans and $270 million in deposits in northern Louisiana.

"Our team remains focused on our goal of becoming the region's most influential business-focused community bank," Jude Melville, Business First’s president and CEO, said in the release. “This merger … expands our presence along the I-20 corridor and provides diversification and balance to our business mix.”

Jerome Vascocu, Richland State's president and CEO, will join Business First's board and become chairman of Business First Bank’s northeast Louisiana region.

Stephens and Fenimore, Kay, Harrison & Ford advised Business First. National Capital and Kantrow Spaht Weaver & Blitzer advised Richland State.

Stephens is the lead book-running manager for the stock offering. Raymond James is the lead manager, while Hovde Group is co-manager.

Business First has been acquisitive lately, buying Minden Bancorp on Jan. 1, adding $315 million in assets, $193.3 million in loans and $264 million in deposits.

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