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John Hageman, Forum News Service, Published November 04 2013

Choice Financial to acquire five N.D. banks

Choice Financial is acquiring a bank with five locations in southeast and western North Dakota, a move that will increase its assets by almost $200 million.

Choice submitted an application to the Federal Reserve this week to purchase Great Plains National Bank, headquartered in Belfield, N.D. It has four other locations in the state, in Dickinson, LaMoure, South Heart and Ellendale.

Brian Johnson, Choice CEO, said Friday they hope to own Great Plains by the end of the year and convert the five locations to Choice banks in the second quarter of 2014.

“So all their employees become Choice employees and all their customers become Choice customers,” Johnson said. “So I would emphasize it as they’ll be served by the great employees they have, but we’ll probably bring some new products to those areas.”

Great Plains has about $190 million in assets, Johnson said. With about $660 million in assets, Choice will grow to $850 million after the acquisition is complete, Johnson said.

Johnson declined to detail proposed terms of the sale.

“We see it as a great growth opportunity with what’s going on in western North Dakota,” Johnson said. He added that Choice has experience with agriculture business in the Red River Valley that will serve them well in the LaMoure and Ellendale locations. “We know that business very well.”

This is Choice’s first acquisition since four banks merged to form Choice Financial in 2001, Johnson said. All except one of its 10 locations is in North Dakota.

“We will continue to look for future growth opportunities, via branching or possibly acquisition opportunities like this,” Johnson said.