Simmons First National (SFNC) in Pine Bluff, Ark., has agreed to buy Community First Bancshares in Union City, Tenn.

The $4.4 billion-asset Simmons First will pay $243.4 million in stock for the $1.9 billion-asset Community First. Simmons First said in a press release Tuesday that it expects to complete the acquisition in the fourth quarter and that the transaction should be immediately accretive to its diluted core earnings per common share.

The move marks Simmons First's entry into the Nashville, Tenn., area. Community First also has 32 branches, $1.1 billion in loans and $1.6 billion in deposits. It is the fifth-biggest bank headquartered in Tennessee, based on deposits.

" As Simmons continues to expand its community banking strategy, it is important that we seek partners that have common goals, experience, and reputations as excellent corporate citizens," George Makris Jr., Simmons First's chairman and chief executive, said in the release. "The leadership of First State throughout its 127 years has built a franchise focused on meeting the financial service needs of its customers in the markets it serves."

Sterne, Agee & Leach and Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow advised Simmons First. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz advised Community First.

Simmons First has been an aggressive acquirer lately. It bought Metropolitan National Bank in Little Rock, Ark, last year through a bankruptcy process. In March it agreed to buy another Delta Trust, which is also based in Little Rock.

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