Business

Tuesday, Jan 29 2013 03:55 PM

Mission finalizes merger with Mojave Desert Bank

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield-based Mission Bank this week announced the completion of its previously disclosed merger with Mojave Desert Bank N.A.

The move was designed as an expansion opportunity for Mission that also helped the Mojave-based institution resolve regulatory demands and offer better customer service.

Doing business under Mission's name, the combined entity has about $400 million in assets, deposits totaling $350 million, a $183 million loan portfolio, 85 employees and seven branches.

"We welcome Mojave Desert Bank's customers, employees and shareholders to Mission Bank's financial family," Mission CEO Richard Fanucchi said in a news release Monday.

The cash and stock transaction was valued at $7.2 million. Mojave's shareholders voted in favor of the proposal in December, following approvals by state and federal regulators.

It leaves Kern County with two locally based banks, down from four as recently as 2008. Valley Republic Bank launched in Bakersfield that year; in October 2009, state and federal regulators closed Bakersfield's San Joaquin Bank over concerns about its liquidity.

The merger plan was disclosed publicly last summer. It allows Mission to expand into eastern Kern County and the Antelope Valley. For Mojave, which has been slower to rebound from the recession, the deal removes the need to shore up its finances and gives its customers access to better technology.

Some aspects of the union aren't finished, according to a Thursday letter to customers posted on Mission's website.

"If you use our high desert-area business banking centers, there will be a slight delay in processing your transactions until we have fully combined our computer systems, which will be happening over the next few months," the letter reads.

Mission earned more than $2 million in 2011 while Mojave Desert lost about half a million dollars.

As of Nov. 30, Mission's assets totaled $290 million, and its loan portfolio came to $129 million. Mojave Desert's assets as of that date totaled $100 million, its loan portfolio $54 million.

Mojave's former president and CEO, George Nagy, who is now Mission's corporate executive vice president, stated that the change is good for clients in the high desert.

"Our customers will benefit from gaining access to a wide range of products and services, while continuing to receive the same high quality of service they have come to expect," he said in the news release.

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