Just four years after going public, a small Colorado thrift has gone nearly private again, voluntarily delisting from Nasdaq and deregistering with securities regulators.

Officials of $78 million-asset Morgan Financial Corp., Fort Morgan, are hoping that the moves will reduce regulatory costs by more than $40,000 a year and save the staff "lots and lots of time," said president and chief executive Michael M. Berryhill.

"Being a public corporation put a lot of pressure on the staff," Mr. Berryhill said. "Just the compliance activities were tremendous."

Morgan officials were also concerned about a wide spread between the bid and ask prices for the stock on Nasdaq: $1.75, on a stock trading at the time at about $11.25 per share.

Morgan's experience illustrates the problems many small institutions encounter when they become publicly held companies. The hefty reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission, added to those mandated by the bank regulators, often can be tough for small institutions. Steps such as those taken by Morgan, therefore, may be an option for many to consider, observers say.

"I think a lot of small banks might consider it," said Catherine K. Rochester, president of Capital Resources Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based investment bank that handled Morgan's January 1993 conversion. "It's not a bad thing to think about because of the costs and hassles."

Under SEC rules, companies with more than 500 shareholders must be registered, though they don't have to be listed on an exchange. Morgan has only about 450 shareholders.

The banks should have an alternate method of providing liquidity for their stocks after delisting, observers say. In Morgan's case, the overcapitalized thrift has been offering to buy back its stock at 86% of book value, a price based on an independent appraisal.

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