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Flurry of Florida Mergers

Recent mortgage-related mergers and acquisitions

May 21, 2009


As is the case with the temperature, mortgage-related mergers in Florida are heating up -- with four deals closed or announced since last month. One firm is looking for mortgage brokers. Merger transactions were also identified in three other states.

Expert Financing & Inv. Inc. is gearing up for dramatic growth, Robert Rico, chief executive officer of parent Expert Group Inc., said in a statement to In October 2008, the publicly traded company, based in Miami, reported $100 million in originations since its inception.

"We are embarking on a major acquisition of originators throughout south Florida," Rico stated, "with plans on opening four new locations within the next 16 months."

Walter Industries Inc. spun off its financing business last month, according to an announcement. The newly independent unit, which includes subprime servicer Walter Mortgage Co., now operates as Walter Investment Management Corp. and is headed by Chairman and CEO Mark J. O'Brien.

In conjunction with the spinoff, the new unit merged with Hanover Capital Mortgage Holdings Inc., a real estate investment trust that acquires prime mortgages and prime mortgage-backed securities. The combined entity, based in Tampa, Fla., employs around 225 people and manages $1.9 billion in assets.

As of Dec. 31, 2007, Fitch Ratings reported that Walter Mortgage serviced 39,000 accounts for $2.1 billion.

Three Shores Bancorporation Inc. has applied with the Federal Reserve Board to become a bank holding company, a Federal Register notice this month said. The Orlando, Fla.-based firm plans to acquire 100 percent of the voting shares of Seaside National Bank & Trust -- also in Orlando.

First National Bank of the Gulf Coast -- a proposed new bank -- has agreed to merge into Panther Community Bank, N.A., a news release last month said. The merged entity will be based in Naples, Fla., and operate as First National Bank of the Gulf Coast. The transaction is subject to approval by shareholders, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Panther Community reports just $48 million in assets. Once the deal is done, Gary L. Tice will lead an estimated 65 employees as Chairman and CEO. The president will be Garrett S. Richter.

Miramar, Fla.-based Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, which failed on April 24, will be merged into Space Coast Credit Union, an April 27 statement indicated. Melbourne, Fla.-based Space Coast took over management of Eastern when it was seized by the Florida Office of Financial Regulations.

The deal has yet to be finalized. But once merged, Space Coast will have more than 350,000 members and more than $3 billion in assets -- up from 160,000 members and more than $1.6 billion in assets now.

Outside Florida, Bank of Commerce Holdings will take a 51 percent equity stake in Simonich Corp., which does business as BWC Mortgage, a press release last week said. The deal calls for 51 percent of BWC's earnings to be paid to the bank in quarterly dividends.

BWC employs 100 people in nine branches, is FHA approved and operates as a hybrid mortgage banker-broker, according to the announcement. The 15-year-old firm has a long-standing relationship with Bank of Commerce and will benefit from in-house underwriting and closings.

Redding, Calif.-based Bank of Commerce -- parent to Redding Bank of Commerce, Roseville Bank of Commerce and Bank of Commerce Mortgage -- reports $765 million in assets.

Yadkin Valley Financial Corp. acquired American Community Bancshares Inc. on April 17, Yadkin President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Long said in the company's first-quarter earnings report. The deal, which created a $2 billion company, expands the Elkin, N.C.-based institution's North Carolina presence and also opens up the South Carolina market.

"Since August of last year, we have consistently monitored American Community's loan portfolio at regular intervals for loan losses, and continue to believe that the risk inherent in its loan portfolio remains manageable," Long stated in the report. "We are continuing to make progress with the integration."

First Savings Financial Group Inc. has agreed to acquire Community First Bank for $21 million in cash, an April 29 news release said. The acquired institution will be merged into First Savings Bank, which is based in Clarksville, Ind.

The merger, expected to occur in the third quarter, must be approved by Community First shareholders and regulators. After the deal closes, the combined "well capitalized" entity will have around $0.5 billion in assets.

In an effort to raise capital, Bank of America Corp. is looking at selling First Republic Bank of San Francisco. The institution, which it inherited with its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, caters to high-dollar clients.

Sam Garcia worked in mortgage lending for twenty years prior to becoming publisher of in 2000.

e-mail: [email protected]

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