Refusing to take no for an answer, San Diego's Bank of Commerce is publicly reaffirming its desire to buy a small but deposit-rich neighbor.

The $445 million-asset bank, which specializes in Small Business Administration lending, offered in late February to buy $96 million-asset Fallbrook National Bank for stock worth about $26 million, or about three times book value. But Fallbrook has steadfastly refused.

In a statement released this week, Bank of Commerce officials said they're "disappointed" that the directors of Fallbrook National won't hold a meeting at which both sides could be presented.

Bank of Commerce held an unofficial meeting for Fallbrook shareholders in late April at which the larger bank's officials presented their case. Fallbrook directors were barred from attending. The meeting was held a day before Fallbrook's annual meeting.

Fallbrook president and chief executive officer Thomas E. Swanson said he's puzzled by Bank of Commerce's persistence.

Although still rare in the banking industry, hostile takeover attempts have become more common in the past couple of years, even among community banks. A North Carolina bank is also appealing to a smaller bank's shareholders after the latter bank's management rejected a takeover offer.

Bank of Commerce, which leads the nation's commercial banks in SBA lending, wants to get its hands on Fallbrook's rich-and low-cost-deposit base in suburban San Diego County to support its own active lending.

Meanwhile, Bank of Commerce officials said, "a number" of Fallbrook shareholders who originally supported management now support a merger. Also, several investors who support a merger are increasing their stakes in Fallbrook.

"We remain interested in talking to the shareholders and the board members when and if they have substantial support to discuss a merger," said Bank of Commerce chairman and chief executive officer Peter Q. Davis.

"I don't know where he's getting his information," Mr. Swanson said. "My shareholders are very happy that we're independent and continuing on."

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