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Robert Trigaux

Failed bank in Lutz opens under new ownership as several Tampa Bay area banks still struggle




Shares of Home Bancshares of Conway, Ark., gained strength throughout the past year, helping it to acquire the failed Florida institution Heritage Bank in Lutz over the weekend. Home Bancshares is the parent of Centennial Bank.

Wake up and good morning. One of Tampa Bay's most troubled banks was finally laid to rest over the weekend by federal regulators and will be resurrected today as party of a stronger out-of-state banking company.

heritagebankwelceomlogocentennialbank.pngHeritage Bank of Lutz failed Friday and was sold by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to Centennial Bank, an Arkansas bank based in Conway whose publicly traded parent is Home Bancshares. Heritage operated three branches (Lutz, Tampa, Wesley Chapel) which will open today as branches of Centennial. Heritage depositors automatically become Centennial customers. Centennial already operates five branches in the Orlando area and three south of Tampa Bay along the southwest coast, plus other locations in Florida.

The Venture blog waved the red warning flag about Heritage Bank numerous times as far back as last fall when it was reported here that Heritage faced regulatory enforcement actions and was already a "zero star" rated bank, as rated by Bauer Financial, meaning it was ranked among the the financially weakest in the state.

Heritage is the 8th Florida institution insured by the FDIC to fail this year. The others can be found on this comprehensive list of bank failures kept by the FDIC.

Slowly, the weakest Florida banks are going away as they fail or are bought on the cheap by stronger competitors. But there are still a few struggling institutions in the area based on Bauer Financial's ratings. The closest "zero star" rated (as of June 30) bank is the Bank of Commerce in Sarasota (though the bank has shown recent profits). And nearby "one star" rated banks, still weak but a notch above "zero star" banks, include First Home Bank in Seminole, Florida Bank in Tampa, Freedom Bank of America in St. Petersburg, and Southern Commerce Bank in Tampa.

Some of these banks may recover given the slowly improving economy. It will be a test of their management strength and the depth of their capital in the coming months.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times


[Last modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 7:33am]


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