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Sandler O'Neill upgrades Simmons First following deal news

Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Stephen Scouten upgraded Pine Bluff, Ark.-based Simmons First National Corp.'s stock rating to "buy" from "hold" and raised the price target to $30 from $26, following the announcement of the company's merger agreement with Columbia, Mo.-based Landrum Co.

Scouten said that the acquisition provides a "sizable fill-in" to Simmons First's legacy markets supported by a franchise with a history of more than 150 years.

He also wrote that he sees the deal as lower-risk in nature considering the new markets are geographically close by and should be generally familiar to Simmons First, while the added liquidity should provide the company with balance sheet flexibility in a lower interest rate environment.

Scouten's EPS estimates for the company are $2.45 for 2019, $2.60 for 2020 and $2.65 for 2021.