Is Chemical Financial (CHFC) in Midland, Mich., preparing for an acquisition?

The $5.8 billion-asset Chemical has begun a public offering of its common stock that seeks to raise $50 million, it announced Wednesday after the market closed. All of the shares are being offered by the company.

Chemical intends to use the offering proceeds for general corporate purposes, including funding loan growth or "long-term strategic opportunities that may arise in the future," its press release said.

The raise follows a $100 million shelf registration by the company in May. At the time Chief Financial Officer Lori Gwizdala said the registration did not mean an acquisition was imminent. Chemical just wanted to be in a position to move quickly should something materialize, she said.

"There haven't been any deals in Michigan so far in 2013, but we think it is going to happen," Gwizdala said in May. "There was no immediate need to raise capital, but with this sitting on the shelf we are ready should the right opportunity arise."

CEO David Ramaker did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

In 2010, Chemical bought the $840 million-asset O.A.K. Financial in Byron, Mich., for $84 million. It also bought 21 branches from Independent Bank (IBCP) in Ionia, Mich., for $8.1 million last year.

Speculation about deal activity in Michigan has picked up lately. Last month Mercantile Bank (MBWM) announced it would acquire Firstbank (FBMI) for $151.5 million, making it the third-largest bank in the state. Chemical is the second-largest.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods is the sole book-running manager on the offering, while Raymond James and Sandler O'Neill are acting as co-managers. Donnelly, Penman & Partners is acting as selling group member.

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