Overworked chief financial officers at community banks are loath to add to the burden.

That's the primary reason at least six community banks decided to close mergers last week.

The unusually large number of deals completed Sept. 30 and the morning of Oct. 1 reflected a desire by the companies' financial officers to start a new month or quarter with a freshly combined balance sheet - no loose ends from the previous period.

"I'm lazy," said Frank W. Whitehead, chief financial officer of Alabama National Bancorp, Birmingham, which bought Firstbanc Holding Co. of Robertsdale, Ala., Sept. 30. "I don't like to create work. Any time I can kill two birds with one stone, I'll do it."

Their reasons varied, but the institutions whose officers were interviewed all sought to avoid complications that come with modern mergers and acquisitions.

Generally, institutions that use the purchase method of accounting find it easier to close at the end of a quarter. That way, they can start fresh with combined results at the beginning of a period, rather than possibly having to deal with partial quarters of as little as a few days, said James Schutz, an analyst at Chicago Corp.

"It was cleaner for everyone if we just did the cutoff at that point and went forward into the new year on a combined basis," said Donald J. Winchell, chief financial officer of First Midwest Financial Inc., Storm Lake, Iowa, which closed its deal for Central West Bancorp. in Casey on Sept. 30, the end of its fiscal year.

"I didn't want to have a short period of combined earnings," Mr. Winchell said. "I didn't want the hassle with that."

He added that the bank could have completed the purchase a few days earlier, but waited to avoid the extra numbers crunching. And S.Y. Bancorp in Louisville, Ky., could have closed its deal for Austin (Ind.) State Bank in mid-August but held off until Oct. 1.

"We were good to go, but we put it on hold so we wouldn't be mid- quarter," said chief financial officer Nancy Davis.

At F&M National, Winchester, Va., which used the pooling of interests method of accounting, officials knew they'd have work to do, so they decided to delay it. An Oct. 1 closing date gave the bank three more months to restate all of its numbers for the last three years to include Allegiance Banc Corp. of Bethesda, Md.

Also, for those who use the pooling method, closing at the beginning of a month provides a "good equity measurement date" for both institutions, said Mark Anderson, CFO at Community First Bankshares in Fargo, N.D., which bought Financial BancCorp, Trinidad, Colo.

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