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Prairie paused talks with acquisitive Equity to consider options

Wichita, Kan.-based Equity Bancshares Inc. announced its pending deal for Prairie State Bancshares Inc. less than a month before it closed its acquisition of Arkansas-based Community First Bancshares Inc.

The buyer's recent activity has included completing the purchase of Kansas' First Independence Corp. in October 2015 and going public the following month. In December 2016, it completed a $35.4 million private placement of its common stock.

Prairie, meanwhile, engaged The Capital Corp.'s services as a merger adviser in August 2015, and the latter's attempt to find possible partners for the Hoxie, Kan.-based community bank saw it contact 30 potential buyers, including Equity.

Half of those prospects executed confidentiality agreements, and six eventually submitted proposals. Of the six, Prairie's management decided to pursue talks with five.

Equity's letter of intent in February offered $23.9 million to $26.2 million for Prairie. Their negotiations also included a side letter detailing how Prairie's State Bank Employee Stock Ownership Plan would be able to sell the Equity shares it receives in the merger. Equity submitted its draft of the agreement on March 2. On March 24, Prairie put their discussions on hold.

During that pause, Capital arranged meetings between Prairie and other possible acquirers. According to a Dec. 27 regulatory filing, talks between Equity and Prairie resumed in June and continued until Oct. 19, when Prairie's board unanimously approved the final terms. The deal was made public the next day.

SNL Financial data shows Equity has gone from having $1.41 billion in assets at the holding company level as of Sept. 30, 2015, to $1.56 billion as of Sept. 30, 2016. With the Community First deal completed, Equity said it now has approximately $2.0 billion in assets, $1.3 billion in loans and $1.6 billion in deposits. Prairie's subsidiary, State Bank, had $148.3 million in assets as of Sept. 30.