PremierWest Bancorp's campaign to persuade shareholders to approve a merger with AmericanWest Bank has not yet reached its goal.  The deal is on hold for one more month as the companies wait for proxy votes to come in.

At a PremierWest (PRWT) shareholder meeting on Tuesday, less than half of the shares were voted in favor of the merger, and the meeting was adjourned until March 19, the company said Wednesday.  So far, 46.9% of the outstanding shares and 63.9% of the total votes cast have been in favor of the merger.  At least half PremierWest's shareholders must vote in favor of the deal.

In October, the Medford, Ore.-based PremierWest agreed to a be bought by AmericanWest's parent company, Starbuck Bancshares in Spokane, Wash., for $16.6 million in cash, or approximately 43% of the PremierWest's tangible book value.

PremierWest has launched an aggressive campaign to sell its shareholders on the deal.  The bank issued three press releases urging shareholders to approve the deal. The press release announcing the adjournment of the shareholder meeting again urged voters to approve the merger.

PremierWest has $1.1 billion of assets and is well-capitalized, with an 8.95% Tier 1 leverage ratio at year end, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. But nonaccrual loans represent 4.21% of the bank's balance sheet, and bank still owes the Treasury Department $41.4 million through the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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