Missouri's community banks and thrifts are sitting on the sidelines as larger banks snatch up market shares.

Though 30 takeover deals valued at more than $960 million were reported last year in Missouri, few community bankers were doing the buying.

In fact, only four Missouri-based financial institutions with fewer than $2 billion of assets made any acquisitions over the past year.

The Buyers

Meanwhile, local heavies such as St. Louis-based Mercantile Bancorp and Boatmen's Bancshares and Kansas City-based Commerce Bancshares and United Missouri Bancshares kept on expanding their market share -- both in Missouri and out-of-state markets.

"By and large, smaller banks are being bought by larger banks throughout the country," said Allen Blake, chief financial officers at First Banks Inc., Clayton. "Missouri is no exception."

According to data compiled for American Banker by SNL Securities, Charlottesville, Va., only six acquisitions were made by the state's community banks in the last four quarters, accounting for less than 5% of all deals announced.

Among the state's hungrier community bankks, First Banks acquired a St. Louis and an Illinois thrift, and Citizens Bancshares, Chillicothe, picked up two small banks in northern Missouri.

"Outside of the cities we are seeing bankers more willing to sell at market value right now," said Bill Young, vice president of Citizens.

Why haven't community bankers gone shopping?

Cash Only

Unlike their larger rivals, most community banks in Missouri must pay cash for acquisitions. Only five community banks and thrifts in the state are publicly traded.

"It's a stock acquisition climate," said Mr. Blake of privately owned First Banks.

What's more, there is a notable absence of banks with from $500 million to $2 billion of assets, usually the more acquisitive within the community banking universe.

"There are just not a lot of middle-tier banks left in Missouri," said Joseph A. Stieven, bank analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., St. Louis.

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