For all their talk about independence, community bankers have been selling their banks in droves.

The past 12 months have seen 181 community bankers joining with banks that have over $2 billion of assets, according to SNL Securities, Charlottesville, Va.

This acquisition boomlet has translated into a transfer of more than $58 million of assets from small to large and superregional banks.

"Bankers are getting good offers for their banks" from larger rivals, said Kenneth Guenther executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.

Acquiring community banks "remains the avenue of access to new markets -- you are buying a market franchise that can't be duplicated by going de novo," said Mr. Guenther.

Marriage of Necessity

Indeed, the weighted price-to-book average paid by large banks for their smaller cousins reached 1.8% in the second quarter, according to the SNL data.

Many bankers say that in order to remain profitable in the face of increased regulations and competition, they need to join forces with larger banks.

Most larger institutions employ specialists to deal with new regulations and are able to cost-efficiently spread technology over larger organizations.

"We can have good products and ideas, but the regulatory requirements make it extra difficult to provide those services," said Russell Lawson, chief executive of Central Banking Group, Oklahoma City.

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