City National Corp. of Beverly Hills has hired away four bankers from Unionbancal Corp. to help it start a private banking group in Northern California.

Gold Banc Corp. in Kansas has racked up a string of bank acquisitions, but its depressed stock price may put the kibosh on the pending purchase of a Denver bank. The Leawood company has picked up three banks since December, and two acquisitions are pending. This month $2.1 billion-asset Gold has closed two deals - one for $560 million-asset CountryBanc Holding Co. in Edmond, Okla., and the other for $124 million-asset First Business Bank of Kansas City.

Yet despite its success in acquiring banks, Gold's stock is trading at half of what it was a year ago. That could spell trouble for the purchase of $358 million-asset Union Bankshares in Denver, the parent of Union Bank and Trust.

The deal was signed last August, when Gold's stock was trading around $12 and had recently been as high as $16.38. Union shareholders were to receive 1.77 Gold shares for each of their own - as long as Gold's were trading at or above $11 in the days before the deal closed.

But at midday Thursday, Gold's stock was trading at just $7.125. The deal was originally to have closed in the fourth quarter, but Union is reevaluating it, said Charles R. Harrison, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

The plan is "wonderful," Mr. Harrison said Tuesday - except that Union's shareholders are "not in any position to say we will accept $7."

Wayne Bopp, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee, said he believes that the only way to save the deal is to renegotiate its terms. Otherwise, he said, it "absolutely will not go through."

Mr. Bopp said that of the four deals Gold had pending in recent months, three were renegotiated. Only the Union deal was not.

"This tells me that Union does not want to renegotiate," he said. Gold "won't cough up more shares, and Union won't take the stock at $7."

Daniel Cardenas, an analyst at Howe Barnes Inc. in Chicago, said he is confident the deal will get done and that the sinking stock does not reflect badly on Gold's capabilities.

"I think the speculation is a little overdone, because the company does have a history of managing mergers," he said. "They have been able to pull off acquisitions and they have done it fairly well."

Mr. Cardenas predicted that Gold will negotiate a deal that would issue additional shares to Union. Mr. Harrison said Gold has not tried to restructure the deal. Union is conducting due diligence and will have met with Gold several times by the end of March, he said.

When those meetings are complete "we will be in a better position to determine whether the transaction will be renegotiated," he said.

Still, Mr. Harrison made clear that he does not view Gold's share price as an indication of its competence. Rising interest rates and increasing competition have depressed bank earnings and, in turn, their stock prices.

"We don't blame them," he said. "The industry is down."


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