After months of delay, a would-be California banking company is once again planning a public offering to fund the purchase of two community banks.

Laguna Hills-based Pacific Community Banking Group - which currently owns no banks-said last week that it would sell 3.7 million shares of its stock at $15 to $16 per share. Proceeds from the proposed $60 million offering would be used to buy two institutions in Riverside County, Calif.: Bank of Hemet and Valley Bank in Moreno.

Pacific Community unveiled its plan to go public and buy the two banks in July. But demand for bank stocks then plummeted along with the stock market, forcing the company to delay what was then planned as an $80 million offering and to revise the deals' terms.

"Everyone has been patient and cooperative," said James T. Hill, managing director of investment banking at Sutro & Co. in Los Angeles, the IPO's underwriter. "This will be an opportunity for the average investor to participate on the ground floor and reap the benefits that institutional investors have had in the past."

The company's goal is to use publicly traded stock to buy small banks in Southern California, but such deals hinge on the successful completion of the public offering.

According to documents filed April 16 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, if the offering is not fulfilled, "any obligation of Pacific Community to complete the acquisitions will terminate."

Terms of the offering call for Valley Bank and Bank of Hemet to transfer their combined 3.1 million shares to Pacific Community, which would then sell them-plus 560,000 of its own-to the public.

At $15 per share, investors would be paying about two times book value and 10 times cash earnings for the stock, based on Pacific Community's projected earnings. Shareholders of both banks are to vote on the deals in early June. Approval is expected.

The company said the two banks' combined operations would constitute the largest independent bank headquartered in Riverside County, with 12 branches and $350 million of assets.

Pacific Community said it would transfer most of Valley's assets into Bank of Hemet, since the banks serve the same area. Valley Bank would take its charter and its remaining assets to Orange County, where neither bank has operations and Pacific Community would like to establish itself.

The offering is expected to be completed in mid-June.

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