First PacTrust Bancorp Inc. in Chula Vista, Calif., is looking to raise up to $30 million in fresh capital that it could use to support its growth.

The $837 million-asset parent of Pacific Trust Bank said Thursday that it plans to offer nearly 1.6 million of its shares to the public and as many as 238,000 shares to existing investors at $15.50 each. It also intends to offer more than 237,000 shares to its underwriters, which could result in total net proceeds of roughly $30 million.

First PacTrust intends to use the proceeds to pursue acquisitions and enter new lines of business. The company, which converted from a credit union in 2000, opened a new branch in San Diego County last year, is planning to open another in Los Angeles County this summer and two weeks ago announced that it would buy the $187 million-asset Gateway Bancorp Inc. in Cerritos, Calif., for $17 million in cash. 

That deal, the first in the company's history, would give First PacTrust three more branches in Southern California as well as nearly two-dozen mortgage production offices in California, Arizona and Oregon.

First PacTrust said it expects the stock offering to close on or around June 28.

Andrew Liesch, an analyst at Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP, said in a research note Thursday that he was surprised by the raise given First PacTrust's already robust capital base and would like to see the company deploy the funds quickly. First PacTrust's tangible common equity ratio was 16.3% at the end of the first quarter and additional $30 million would raise the ratio to 19.4% on a pro-forma basis. Analysts typically deem a ratio above 6% to be healthy.

"Given the excess capital that will be on hand, we hope the company has some very attractive and timely deal prospects on the horizon," Liesch said in the note.

In heavy trading, First PacTrust's shares fell 7.4% on news of the stock offering, to close at $15.07.

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