Simmons First National in Pine Bluff, Ark., has bought the troubled Heartland Bank in Little Rock, Ark., as part of a public auction.

The $199 million-asset Heartland was sold to pay the debts of its parent company, Rock Bancshares. Simmons’ bank had the winning bid in the auction, which was not completed through a bankruptcy process.

Heartland was operating under a written agreement with the Federal Reserve. The December order had included requirements for the bank to submit a written plan to strengthen credit risk management, review its methodology for its loan-loss allowance and develop a plan to maintain sufficient capital.

The bank’s Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio was 5.52% at June 30, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Its total risk-based capital ratio was 6.8%.

“Heartland’s challenging circumstances have been well publicized over the past several months,” Marty Casteel, chairman, president and CEO of Simmons First National Bank, said in a Monday regulatory filing. The "immediate goal is to create a stable environment for that bank to continue providing its customers with the products and services they need.”

Larry Bates, Simmons’ executive vice president of specialty lending, was named Heartland’s chairman, president and CEO. Heartland will remain a separately chartered state bank, though the $9.1 billion-asset Simmons is “evaluating its next steps with respect to the institution,” the filing said.

Simmons has been active acquirer in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee in recent years. It has bought 10 banks since May 2010 with two others pending.

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Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart covers community banks and mergers and acquisitions for American Banker.