An Atlanta financing company is buying a troubled minority-owned bank in North Carolina and plans to expand it.
Omni Financial Services Inc. last month agreed to buy $34.6 million-asset United National Bank of Fayetteville, which has come under regulatory scrutiny because of its lending practices. The buyer and seller are both privately held.
The deal is unusual in that banks buy financing companies more often than financing companies buy banks.
Stephen Klein, Omni's chief executive, would not reveal specifics of the agreement but said the purchase should close by March 31. Officials at United did not return calls.
United National and Omni both serve low-income minority communities; Omni provides real estate financing in such communities.
"We believe that because of the type of business we're in, we could rehabilitate the bank and make an impact in the community," Mr. Klein said.
Rehabilitating United may be tough. The bank has been losing money for three years, and its assets have shrunk by 25% since 1995. In October, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency slapped it with a cease-and-desist order over several loans. The order required United to tighten lending practices, hire a senior loan officer, and comply with various reporting requirements.Mr. Klein said the bank will continue to operate under its current name and retain most of its staff. "Our plan is to keep the status quo," he said.
But Omni plans to expand the bank's operations in the Fayetteville market and possibly elsewhere in North Carolina, Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein, a former director of Republic Bancorp in Owosso, Mich., said Omni will make more acquisitions in the Southeast. The region's increasingly competitive environment should produce willing sellers, he said.
"The industry is changing," Mr. Klein said, "and I don't think a lot of community banks can compete unless they do some different things."