Glacier Bancorp of Kalispell, Mont. reached a definitive agreement last week to acquire Big Sky (Mont.) Western Bank for $5 million in stock.

The deal, scheduled to close early next year, would create the largest publicly traded banking company in Montana, with $710 million of assets and 23 offices in 16 communities.

"The Big Sky transaction not only represents our first entry into Gallatin County market but also strengthens our position as a leading Montana banking organization," said Mick Blodnick, president and chief executive of Glacier.

The deal calls for Big Sky shareholders to receive 250,000 shares of Glacier stock. Big Sky, with $40 million of assets, would retain its name and its employees.

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