A Connecticut banking company moved to alert shareholders last week that a recent offer for their stock is way below market price.
In a press release, $196 million-asset Salisbury Bancorp of Lakeville said it had learned that a Phoenix-based investment group, IG Holdings, is offering $14 a share in a solicitation to shareholders.
Salisbury has been trading at $19.75 to $21.75 this year. Its price at midday Monday was $21.625.
Officials of the banking company said the offer, for up to 2% of its stock, was unsolicited. In fact, the company learned of it only when its trust department was notified by a broker who had received IG's solicitation.
"Our concern is that an unwitting shareholder might be duped," said John F. Perotti, Salisbury's president. "I felt a release was the prudent thing to do."
Mr. Perotti said the bank has an ongoing stock buyback program for investors who want to sell their shares.
Salisbury is the second community bank in recent weeks to be targeted by IG Holdings, the investment vehicle for Ira Gaines. In late January, Kankakee (Ill.) Bancorp put out a warning similar to Salisbury's after the investor offered to buy its shares for $20.125 each, 18.6% lower than the company's current stock price.
Michael A. Stanfa, executive vice president of Kankakee, said his company has no idea how many shares Mr. Gaines has bought. The company has no plans to investigate.
"Unless there is a reason for us to find out more about Mr. Gaines, I don't know if we will," he said. "Day-to-day operations at the bank have to come before issues we have no control over."
Mr. Gaines' investment tactics, which have been detailed in recent weeks by The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and Forbes, are not limited to bank stocks. He has also made offers on shares of companies such as Friendly Ice Cream Corp. and WD-40 Co., and on some convertible bond issues.
His strategy is to go after illiquid stocks that investors might have trouble unloading on the market. For example, an average of 682 shares of Salisbury changed hands each day over the past three months.
He never offers to buy more than 4.9% of the outstanding shares of a company, thereby avoiding having to file disclosure information with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Mr. Gaines did not return calls seeking comment.