Simmons First National Corp., Pine Bluff, Ark., said it has a deal to buy American Bancshares of Arkansas Inc., Charleston, for about $21.9 million in stock.

Simmons owns seven community banks in Arkansas with combined assets of $1.3 billion. American Bancshares is the parent of 88-year-old American State Bank, which has been owned by the Hiatt family since 1918.

Under terms of the deal, expected to close in late 1998, American State Bank would be merged into Simmons' lead subsidiary, Simmons First National Bank.

Joe Hiatt, chairman and chief executive officer of $88 million-asset American Bancshares and its bank subsidiary, said he's been doing business with Simmons for 40 years and is confident the company would treat his employees fairly. He said the family decided to sell this year because it had become "fed up" with government regulations.

"We're just a small fish in a great big lake," said Mr. Hiatt, who would take a seat on Simmons' board. "We can't afford to spend $250,000 a year to comply with government regulations."

- Alan Kline

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