Arkansas Business: Healthcare sector led stocks low

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The health care sector leading stocks lower on Monday. Drug makers Pfizer logged the biggest loss in the Dow Jones industrial average, its shares dropped 2 percent.

And Biotech stocks continued a decline that began Friday after lawmakers questioned the pricing of a Hepatitis C drug.

Arkansas bank mergers continue

The string of Arkansas bank mergers that began last year continues. Publicly traded Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff announcing after the stock market closed yesterday that it is buying privately held Delta Trust and Bank of Little Rock for about $66 million.

That's about 1.6 times book value for Delta, a lender with $431 million in assets. Executives say the deal should close by the third quarter.

Delta Trust is led by founding CEO French Hill, who's running for the 2nd District congressional seat now held by Tim Griffin, who's decided to run for lieutenant governor.

Arkansas Business has following Delta's efforts to sell since last year, when the Stephen LaFrance family, which used to own USA Drug, considered buying the bank but couldn't reach an agreement over price.

In a conference call about the deal yesterday, Simmons First CEO George Makris said there would likely be some branch closures because of the merger.

And he continued to indicate that Simmons will continue to look for more acquisitions. This is Simmons' second bank buy in less than year.

In November, it completed a $54 million deal to buy Metropolitan National Bank. In all, Simmons has $4.4 billion in assets and more than 100 branches in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.

Delta has nine offices in Arkansas, including a new branch is plans to open next month at the Villages at Hendrix in Conway.


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