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Commerce Bancshares (CBSH) Up on Plans to Acquire L.J. Hart

Shares of Commerce Bancshares, Inc. CBSH rallied 2.2% following the announcement of its plans to further expand capital markets operations. Commerce Bank, one of the subsidiaries of CBSH, has signed an agreement to acquire St. Louis, MO-based L.J. Hart & Company, a municipal bond underwriter and advisor.

The financial terms of the deal, which still require necessary regulatory approvals, were not disclosed. Upon closure, Commerce Bank plans to retain the L.J. Hart brand, employees and its current office in Chesterfield.

Founded in 1991, L.J. Hart has advised more than 300 Missouri Public School Districts and almost 28 Missouri county governments. Per the data available from Refinitiv Financial Solutions, the firm has underwritten approximately 2,600 individual municipal financings since 1991 “for a par value exceeding $7.3 billion.”

Commerce Bank offers fixed-income trading, asset liability management, safe-keeping and bond accounting to institutional clients through Commerce Brokerage Services Inc. and Commerce Bank Capital Markets Group. Following the completion of the transaction, L.J. Hart will become part of CBSH’s institutional fixed-income business, which at present employs more than 50 staff members across two business units.

Erik Swanson, executive vice president and managing director of Commerce Bank Commercial Tradeable Products, said, “L.J. Hart & Company is a welcome addition to Commerce’s capabilities and the team is a great fit for our culture.”

Larry J. Hart, chairman, CEO and founder of L.J. Hart, noted, “I am very proud of the business footprint we are developing with this excellent team and look forward to leveraging Commerce Bank’s network for future growth.”

Higher interest rates, robust loan balances and fee income growth efforts are expected to support Commerce Bancshares’ organic growth initiatives. The above-mentioned deal will likely further bolster its fixed-income capabilities and support the top line over time.

So far this year, shares of CBSH have gained 6.3% against 0.6% decline for the industry it belongs to.

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research


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At present, Commerce Bancshares carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Of late, banks have been thriving to expand through acquisitions amid a challenging operating environment. Last week, Washington Federal, Inc. WAFD announced its plan to enter the lucrative and “fast-growing” California market. The company signed an agreement to acquire Luther Burbank Corporation LBC and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Luther Burbank Savings, for $654 million.

Washington Federal is expected to use the deal as “a platform for growth in attractive California markets.” The company intends to enhance multifamily loan origination capabilities and expand commercial banking activities to Northern and Southern California. At present, LBC operates in California, Washington and Oregon through 11 full-service branches and seven loan production offices.


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