First Banks Inc., a St. Louis-based company that recently announced three acquisitions in Southern California, now says it will inject $5 million of capital into a fourth institution, QCB Bancorp, Long Beach.

"We're looking at it as a partnership," said Fred D. Jensen, president and chief executive of QCB. "I believe First Banks is probably looking at bringing QCB into the network they have begun to accumulate."

First Banks said it would invest the money in capital debentures of QCB, which owns $77 million-asset Queen City Bank. Proceeds from the private placement will be invested in the subsidiary bank's capital, and the debentures must be converted into common stock by Dec. 31, 1996.

The $3.3 billion-asset First Banks, which is owned by James F. Dierberg, has more than 100 banking locations in Missouri, Illinois, and Texas.

Because the Midwest has matured as an acquisition market, First Banks has turned to areas such as Texas and California, said Allen Blake, the company's chief financial officer. First Banks believes these states will become ripe for bank and thrift takeovers, allowing the company more opportunities to grow through acquisition.

The QCB transaction is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals and is expected to be completed during the third quarter.

Between now and when the debentures must be converted, the banks can reevaluate some questionable loans in QCB's portfolio, and QCB shareholders could end up with a higher price for their stock in an eventual sale, said Mr. Jensen.

"It's a good way to provide for the buyer and purchaser to get to a fair value over time and not have some disputes that can't be reconciled," said Mr. Jensen, who joined the institution with other new management in June 1994 to help clean up QCB's loan portfolio.

Total classified loans peaked at $12 million and have declined to $10 million, Mr. Jensen said.

Last month, First Banks said it had agreed in principle to acquire Irvine City Financial, which owns $82 million-asset Irvine City Bank.

And last year, the company announced agreements to acquire two other Orange County institutions: $95.4 million-asset Huntington National Bank, Huntington Beach, Calif., and $310 million-asset CCB Bancorp.

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