Simmons First National in Pine Bluff, Ark., is heeding the advice of Horace Greeley.

The $8.2 billion-asset company said in a press release that it will move westward with an agreement to buy the $2.5 billion-asset Southwest Bancorp in Stillwater, Okla., for $564 million. The cash-and-stock deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, values Southwest at 210% of its tangible book value.

"This transaction provides Simmons with an incredible opportunity to enter new markets in new states — Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas — and grow our operations in Kansas," George Makris, Jr., Simmons' chairman and CEO, said in the release. Southwest's management "has been dedicated to building a brand known for excellence in customer service. They've been highly successful, and we look forward to their continued involvement in the combined organization."

Mark Funke, Southwest's president and CEO, will become president of a newly formed Southwest division, where he will be responsible for banking operations in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Kansas.

"After much consideration of our strategic options, it became clear that partnering with Simmons … presents the best long-term opportunity for our associates, customers, and shareholders," Funke said in the release.

Southwest has 31 branches, $1.9 billion in loans and $2 billion in deposits.

The deal is expected to be accretive to Simmons' earnings per share in the first year. It should take about 2.5 years for Simmons to earn back any dilution to its tangible book value.

Simmons said it plans to cut about $21.5 million, or 35%, of Southwest's annual noninterest expenses. The company expects to incur $12.8 million in after-tax merger-related expenses.

Simmons was advised by Stephens Inc. Southwest was advised by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

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