Two old-line banks that survived the oil debacle in Oklahoma are winning accolades from Midwest banking analysts.

BancFirst Corp. in Oklahoma City and Southwest Bancorp Inc. in Stillwater both received recent "buy" ratings. Both institutions were cited for their stable managements, successful operating strategies, and strong fundamentals.

Both companies became publicly traded in the last year.

'In a Good Position'

"BancFirst meets the classic definition of a "super community bank" with a centralized back office and a centralized delivery system," said Daniel E. Coughlin, bank analyst at Howe Barnes Investments, in initiating coverage of the $823 million holding company. "As one of the few remaining independent banks in the state of Oklahoma which has maintained a community bank focus, we believe the company is in a good position for future expansion."

Acquisition-Minded

Key to Mr. Coughlin's optimism about BancFirst are its recent acquisitions in Oklahoma. It acquired three affiliated bank holding companies in December and a $37 million-asset Tulsa bank in March. The company now has 39 banking offices. Most of them are in and around Oklahoma City, but several are scattered among various eastern Oklahoma counties.

Mr. Coughlin said there are plenty of independent community banks in Oklahoma for BancFirst to choose from for acquisitions, and he believes the company can do the deals relatively cheaply and efficiently.

He pointed out that several indicators of the Oklahoma economy are heading upward, signaling that the state's finally throwing off the shackles of the oil bust that destroyed 110 banks there between 1985 and 1990.

Experienced Management Team

In addition, BancFirst is 48% held by the Rainbolt family, which also manages the bank. For that reason, Mr. Coughlin believes BancFirst is not a takeover candidate but has a management whose interest is closely aligned with shareholders.

Southwest Bancorp, like BancFirst, is also closely held by insiders, who own 65% of the outstanding stock.

Joseph A. Stieven, bank analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in St. Louis, which managed Southwest's December stock offering, cited the bank's experienced management team and focus on profitable niche markets.

"The company has an extremely unique culture that has successfuly combined marketing expertise and a strong loan underwriting process," he said.

'An Attractive Opportunity'

"We believe Southwest Bancorp's stock provides an attractive opportunity."

After going public at $11 a share, Southwest's stock hardly budged early this spring but since late April has gone above $13 a share for the first time.

Mr. Coughlin said the stock is attractive for capital appreciation and modest income, and predicted it would go to between $14 and $16 in the next year and a half.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.