American Bancshares is planning to expand operations beyond its Bradenton, Fla., base.

The bank holding company's purchase of Murdock Florida Bank is expected to close March 17, said Gerald L. Anthony, president and chief executive officer of American Bancshares. Murdock is in Charlotte County, a fast- growing area south of Bradenton and Sarasota on the west coast of Florida, said Mr. Anthony.

The expansion comes as many bank analysts are downgrading their ratings on Florida banks and thrifts because of high refinancing volume.

"Most of these thrifts and banks have had to reduce their yields on their assets because they're getting refinanced. There is a significant amount of pressure," said Richard X. Bove, a bank analyst with Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

American Bancshares' subsidiary, American Bank of Bradenton, a community bank with nearly $300 million of assets, is counting on new volume to bolster earnings and increase cross-selling potential, said Mr. Anthony.

American Bank of Bradenton announced last week that it would hire three local residential loan officers who originated close to $60 million in residential mortgages last year. In 1997, the bank generated about $105 million of mortgages, Mr. Anthony said.

Real estate opportunities in the Florida market are driving the expansion.

"There is a tremendous amount of building going on," Mr. Anthony said. "The market area is expanding, as well as the areas that we are going into with the new bank that we bought."

American Bancshares has opened two branches in the last 18 months and has received approval to open another branch in the spring. The purchase of Murdock Florida Bank would add eight branches in five years.

Commercial real estate makes up almost 54% of its portfolio, residential accounts nearly 35%, and the rest is from consumer loans, Mr. Anthony said.

He expects close to $160 million of residential real estate loans in Florida this year. The majority would be sold to the secondary market, generating additional fee income.

Mr. Anthony said American Bancshares in the second quarter plans to open a subsidiary, Freedom Finance Co., which would specialize in smaller consumer loan transactions.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.