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Expansions and Mergers

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Expansions and MergersRecent mortgage industry mergers and acquisitions

May 17, 2005

By COCO SALAZAR

A Michigan-based nonprime wholesaler that recently completed an initial public offering and changed its name tops this week’s corporate announcements.

First Banks Inc. will acquire International Bank of California, a state-chartered bank, in a deal expected to be completed next quarter, according to a press release.

The merger will give Los Angeles-based International Bank an extensive line of consumer products to offer — including mortgage loans, the announcement said.

Keystone Financial Corp. and its Keystone Community Bank will merge into Firstbank Corp. in a transaction valued at $26.6 million, expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, according to an announcement.

“We hope to accelerate Keystone’s recent branch development strategy, and are certain that our company’s strength in originating and servicing residential mortgage loans will complement those efforts,” Firstbank chief executive Thomas Sullivan said in the announcement.

Keystone Financial has four full-service offices in southwestern Michigan, while Firstbank has 35 offices in the central and northern regions of the state.

Keystone said it agreed to merge “to accelerate our independent growth in southwest Michigan, strengthen our core group of products and services and monetize our shareholders investment with a superior return,” as well as other factors.

In Palm Beach, Fla., Union Equity Inc. announced it scheduled an execution date of June 1, 2005, for the lockup agreement that will prohibit chief executive Michael Anthony from selling any of his company stock on the open market.

“Corporate CEO’s have a greater responsibility to their shareholders than ten years ago,” said Anthony in the announcement. “I believe lockup agreements should be used widely throughout the industry by people in my position. These contracts foster a tremendous amount of mutual good faith.”

While Anthony’s shares are currently restricted, void of a lockup agreement would allow him to begin selling by this November, the company reported. The upcoming lockup agreement will extend the restriction another year, prohibiting him from selling any of his stock until at least November 2006.

Union Equity said it is also considering reducing the company’s authorized shares by as much as half.

Union Equity, which reportedly is a holding company that specializes in mortgage finance among other things, says it plans to grow aggressively over the next two to three years through acquisitions, mergers and internal growth.

First National Bank of Altavista announced it will expand within Virginia by opening a loan production office in Moneta, Franklin County, Va. The new office will originate mortgage, commercial, business and consumer loans.

“We have had an interest in the Smith Mountain Lake market for sometime and are delighted to be able to seize upon the opportunity to establish a presence there,” stated Rob Gilliam, president of Pinnacle Bankshares and First National, in the announcement. “We will monitor our progress with the Loan Production Office toward evaluating the potential for a broader presence in the Lake market.”

In Southfield, Mich., nonprime lender Franklin Capital Group Ltd., which recently completed an initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange, announced that its operating subsidiary, FMF Capital LLC, is nearing conclusion of its regulatory and licensing process and should begin operations under its new name FMF Capital in June.

Previously, the company, which services mortgage brokers through its wholesale business, operated under the names Franklin Mortgage Funding and Franklin Direct.

“Our team has been building the infrastructure for a ‘national brand’ for more than nine years,” said FMF executive Edan King.

“FMF Capital has experienced tremendous growth,” with more than $2 billion in production in 2004 of which $724 million was in the fourth quarter, commented FMF CEO Robert Pilcowitz in the announcement.


Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.email: s3celeste@aol.com

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