Glacier Bancorp (GBCI) in Kalispell, Mont., is prepared to become a more aggressive acquirer after unveiling its first deal in four years.

The $7.7 billion-asset company has agreed to buy Wheatland Bankshares in Wyoming for roughly $38 million. It is Glacier's first deal since February 2009, and Chief Executive Mick Blodnick made it clear that investors should expect more deals.

"We would love to do a couple more of these in the next 12 to 24 months," he said during a conference call Tuesday to discuss the transaction, which is expected to close by May 31. "We are liking what we are seeing as far as quality organizations starting to look at their options."

Glacier could maintain a pace of two or three deals a year, though it would depend on the number of high-quality banks that become available. "There are enough … really good solid banks that we could probably stay pretty busy over the next three to five years," Blodnick said.

The Wheatland purchase "opens up some further opportunities stretching down into northern Colorado," Blodnick added. "But we also hope that there are some additional opportunities in southeast Wyoming."

Glacier would prefer to buy community banks with assets of $200 million to $750 million, Blodnick said. Wheatland fits that description; its First State Bank had $281 million in assets at Dec. 31. "We kind of like right now the level of activity that we are seeing out there" as more banks consider selling, he said.

First State also gives Glacier more expertise in lending to the agricultural and energy sectors; about 42% of the seller's loans are tied to agriculture and farmland. Glacier had been making plans to hire lenders to focus more on ag lending before initiating discussions with Wheatland five months ago, Blodnick said.

Glacier will be more cautious about expanding into lending to energy companies. "It will probably be more of a go slow on the energy side," Blodnick said. "We have tried to slowly work our way into the energy sector to make sure that we truly understand what we are doing. … We have been a little gun shy on doing any kind of exploration- or production-type lending."

First State reported a profit of roughly $3.5 million last year. Commercial and industrial loans made up 17% of the bank's loan portfolio at Dec. 31. It also had stellar credit quality, with just 0.16% of its assets classified as nonperforming.

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