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Premier Financial to acquire Charleston bank

July 24, 2018
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Chris Dorst/HD Media The First Bank building in Charleston, which will convert to a Premier Financial Bancorp-brand bank this fall, is shown.

First Bank of Charleston will convert to a Premier Financial Bancorp-brand bank this fall — the Huntington-based company’s debut operating a Charleston community bank.

Premier Financial, with assets of $1.5 billion, will acquire First Bank for a combination of cash and stock valued at $33 million. First Bank will merge into Premier Bank — a banking subsidiary of Premier Financial — giving it a full-service location in Charleston. The conversion will take place Oct. 12, according to Premier Financial.

The acquisition still requires regulatory and shareholder approval, both of which are expected to come in the late summer or early fall, according to Leland Steele, Premier Financial’s marketing manager.

First Bank converting to Premier’s information systems and signage - taking on “the Premier identity” - will likely come not long after the deal closes, according to Steele.

First Bank, located on Charleston’s West Side with assets of roughly $189 million, was founded in 2003.

Mark Bias, president of Premier Bank, was not available for comment. But Robert Walker, president of Premier Financial, said in a statement earlier this year that expanding its retail banking presence to Charleston will benefit both Premier and First Bank customers.

“Centrally located between our Ripley, Spencer and Madison markets, a Charleston based retail presence will enable Premier Bank to compete head-to-head with the large out-of-state banking franchises that bought their way into the marketplace, bringing their out-of-state, centralized decision making banking models with them,” he said.

Premier has a community-driven approach, according to Walker, as divisional presidents are responsible for local lending decisions. Premier wields larger lending limits than First Bank and also offers fraud prevention features and credit monitoring services, he added.

Most of Premier’s branches are in West Virginia, with additional branch locations in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area.

In a statement of his own earlier this year, First Bank President and CEO Larry Stark said he believes the deal “will be a success for our shareholders, customers, employees, and communities.”

Doug Reynolds, managing partner of HD Media, which bought the Charleston Gazette-Mail earlier this year, is secretary of First Bank of Charleston, according to West Virginia Secretary of State filings.

The terms of the agreement - still subject to approval - entitle First Bank shareholders to a Premier stock and cash combination valued at roughly $32 per First Bank share.

Premier Financial announced record earnings in the 2018 first quarter, with a net income of $5.13 million as compared to the $3.66 million announced for the 2017 first quarter. The company cited tax cuts and an increase in interest income among the reasons for the strong start to the year.

Reach Max Garland at max.garland@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

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