Union Planters Corp. of Memphis said it plans to buy Jefferson Savings Bancorp of Ballwin, Mo., for $140 million in stock, continuing its march into Missouri and Texas.
The deal, announced late Wednesday, is in keeping with Union Planters' strategy of acquiring smaller companies to fill in its core territory. Talks between the companies were initiated by Benjamin W. Rawlins Jr., chief executive officer of Union Planters who died last week.
The transaction "further reinforces the strategy [Mr. Rawlins] initiated to expand in markets we currently serve," said Jackson W. Moore, who was named Union Planters chairman and chief executive on Monday.
Jefferson Savings, with $1.6 billion of assets and $981 million of deposits, is the parent company of Jefferson Heritage Bank. More than half of the company's deposits are in the St. Louis area; the rest are in northeast Texas.
Jefferson Savings also operates a mortgage-servicing unit with offices in Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona.
Until recently Union Planters was one of the industry's busiest acquirers, closing on some 17 deals in the 1990s. In 1998 it made its first big splash in the St. Louis market, buying $7.1 billion-asset Magna Group Inc. That year it also bought Houston-based Merchant Bancshares for $119 million. And the next summer it bought Republic Banking Corp. of Miami for $410 million.
Since then the Memphis company has said it would go slower on acquisitions, integrating those already made before it getting back in the hunt.
But this summer Union Planters showed signs of reemerging as a dealmaker. In late August it said it had signed a letter of intent to buy Barret Bancorp, a $510 million-asset community bank holding company near Memphis, which has 12 branches and runs Somerville Bank and Trust. A definitive purchase agreement is expected in the coming weeks.
In an interview Monday, Mr. Moore said the company would be interested in smaller deals that offer a strategic fit, though he did not disclose any time frame.
Still, the acquisition of Jefferson Savings did surprise some.
"I thought they were more internally focused on what they have," said Joseph Roberto, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "This kind of makes me wonder if they are back in the acquisition game."
Union Planters agreed to exchange 0.433 shares of its stock for each share of Jefferson Savings. The sale, which would require regulatory and shareholder approvals, is scheduled to close in the first quarter.
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