YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Liberty National Revives Enough to Attract a Buyer


HUNTINGTON BEACH — Liberty National Bank, returning to profitability after struggling through the recession, said Friday that it has agreed to be acquired by a New Hampshire investor group for $14.5 million in cash.

Bank directors signed a letter of intent to sell Liberty National for $14.80 a share or 1.3 times its net worth, whichever is larger at the time the deal closes, to Dartmouth Capital Group, a limited partnership based outside Manchester, N.H.

The deal, subject to a definitive agreement and shareholder and regulatory approvals, could be completed early next year.

Liberty is expected to continue operations with its name, management and employees intact, said Edward J. Carpenter of Irvine, an industry consultant who represents Dartmouth Capital.

"We think Liberty is very well managed for future growth and profitability," Carpenter said. "It's done a good job addressing its real estate-related problems in the past."

The Huntington Beach bank lost a total $2.6 million in the past two years, but it earned $101,000 for the first quarter and has continued to be profitable, he said. The bank hasn't released second-quarter results.

Liberty, which holds $140 million in loans and other assets, had carved out a specialty in providing small businesses with loans backed by the Small Business Administration. But the area's long economic downturn took its toll on Liberty, which had relied on the value of real estate to secure many of its loans.

Last month, Dartmouth Capital agreed to acquire a controlling interest in SDN Bancorp in Encinitas, the parent company of San Dieguito National Bank, for about $5 million in cash. Keller could not be reached for comment about possible plans for combining the banks or for buying more institutions.

Los Angeles Times Articles