Unlike several other publicly traded companies in the Pacific Northwest, Glacier Bancorp Inc. of Kalispell, Mont., has raised capital under its own steam.
It aims to use that cash, $98 million, to expand as far south as New Mexico and Arizona.
"Our strategic plan over the next five to 10 years is to make a Rocky Mountain franchise, stretching from Canada to Mexico," Mick Blodnick, Glacier's chief executive, said in an interview last week after the $5.2 billion-asset company completed a 6.3 million offering of common stock.
Glacier, whose 88 branches include some in Washington State, has bought seven banks since early 2003 — one in Utah and two each in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho — and its $22.7 million deal to buy the $146 million-asset Bank of the San Juans in Durango, Colo., is expected to close this quarter.
In acquisitions Glacier tends to target banks with assets of $200 million to $250 million. Mr. Blodnick said he believes it can buy four or five such banks using the capital it recently raised.
Mr. Blodnick said his company would continue to take a measured approach to expansion. It does not want an abundance of branches in its current markets and is not keen on entering the busier Denver or Phoenix markets, he said.
"While I would never say never" to buying banks in those markets, "we just think our model works better in smaller markets," he said. "In a bigger market, having a major brand name may be more important."
Glacier operates the banks it acquires under separate charters, keeping their names, management teams, and boards intact.
Brett Rabatin, a senior bank analyst with First Horizon National Corp.'s FTN Midwest Research Securities Corp., said it makes sense for Glacier to expand south in the Intermountain West region rather than west over the Cascade Mountains to the highly banked markets of Seattle or Portland, Ore.
"They are looking for smaller markets that are similar to those in Montana and Wyoming, where the only banks they compete with are superregional banks like Wells Fargo & Co. and one or two very small banks," Mr. Rabatin said. "They don't have to pay up as much in smaller markets in order to get a lot of deposit share."
Chris Stulpin, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Portland, Ore., said that even before last week's stock offering, Glacier had a good capital position; it began preserving capital in 2006 when the housing meltdown began to slow residential construction, he noted. Since then, he said, the company has not had to use as much capital as others to absorb huge credit losses — because of its strict underwriting standards.
Last week's stock offering raised Glacier's total risk-based capital to over 16%, one of the strongest capital positions in the industry, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Mr. Stulpin said the majority of Glacier's credit troubles have come from stalled residential development projects in Boise and the suburbs of Salt Lake City. However, its credit losses have not been as heavy as those of companies operating in more explosive markets farther West.
(Glacier has had higher provisions in recent quarters, but its ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets was 1.3% at Sept. 30, lower than the average for banks with assets of $1 billion to $10 billion, according to the FDIC.)
"This offering gives Glacier the capital to acquire banks when other banks are just trying to hunker down and stay afloat," Mr. Stulpin said.
Glacier originally planned to offer 4 million shares but increased it to 5.5 million because of strong investor demand, the company said. The underwriters exercised an additional 825,000 shares.