Two agreements to buy community banks in San Diego County were announced last week-including one for a whopping five times book value.
Scripps Bank, La Jolla, Calif., said Thursday that it planned to acquire Pacific Commerce Bank, Chula Vista, for about $35 million in stock, or five times book. Both are in the county.
On the same day Community West Bancshares of Goleta, about 200 miles away in Santa Barbara County, said it would acquire Palomar Savings and Loan, Escondido, for about $13 million, or 2.2 times book value.
Officials of the would-be buyers cited growth potential as the reason for expanding in San Diego County. Community West, the $136 million-asset parent of Goleta National Bank, said it is eager to expand beyond California's central coast. "This gives us access to a dynamic growth area in northern San Diego County," said Lew Stone, president and chief executive officer.
And by acquiring Pacific Commerce, $394 million-asset Scripps would gain a foothold in the South Bay, near the Mexico border. Though the area is less affluent than other sections of the county, Scripps' president and CEO, Ronald J. Carlson, said he was attracted to South Bay for its potential.
"It's the one area of the county where there's still land to buy," Mr. Carlson said. "We kind of see it as the next growth area."
Though the price is high, Hans Schroeder, a bank analyst at Hoefer & Arnett in San Francisco, said Scripps is not overpaying for Pacific Commerce, because it is beating its competitors to the punch.
"I've spoken with several banks in recent months that have expressed interest in getting into that area," Mr. Schroeder said.
Thomas D. Michelli, president and CEO of Pacific Commerce, said the 14- year-old bank was content to remain independent until Scripps made an offer too good to refuse. "We really weren't looking for a merger, but on behalf of the shareholders, this wasn't one that we could turn aside," Mr. Michelli said. He added that Pacific Commerce would assume the Scripps name when the deal is completed, and that he would remain with Scripps as a regional manager.
The Palomar acquisition would be the first for nine-year-old Goleta National or Community West, the holding company it formed last year. Community West said its strategy is to acquire other small banks and thrifts and operate them independently.
"We don't want to pay a premium and then throw away the most valuable thing they have, the name," said Randy Shaffer, the company's executive vice president.
Both deals are expected to close in the third quarter.