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AmericanWest buys small bank

Sunrise has four branches in four California cities

AmericanWest Bank has agreed to buy a Southern California bank for $18.5 million, the Spokane-based institution announced Thursday.

Sunrise Bank, with branches in Point Loma, Escondido, Palm Desert and San Diego, has $232 million in assets and $212 million in deposits.

AmericanWest assets total $1.6 billion, deposits $1.4 billion.

Affiliates of Capitol Bancorp Ltd. have agreed to vote their controlling share of Sunrise in favor of the merger, which will pay holders of each Sunrise share $4.31 in cash.

Capitol is also the majority owner of Bank of the Northwest, which AmericanWest agreed to buy last month for $17 million.

The first deal led AmericanWest to Sunrise, said spokeswoman Kelly McPhee.

It was also something of a homecoming for AmericanWest Chairman Scott Kisting, who has 22 years of experience in California banking, including executive positions with Bank of America and California Federal Bank.

Kisting said Sunrise’s small-business, relationship-based approach to banking will be a good fit with AmericanWest.

“They’re in some great locations,” he added.

Sunrise Chairman Scott Andrews said AmericanWest’s deep capital will provide more stability and strength to Sunrise, which has been hampered by problems at Capitol, which since Jan. 1 has announced the sale of other banks in Texas, Arizona and North Carolina.

“We believe we have found a terrific merger partner,” he said.

The Sunrise and Bank of the Northwest deals, which await regulator approval, should boost AmericanWest earnings immediately.

Sunrise earned $542,000 in the first quarter, McPhee said.

Kisting said AmericanWest, which in December received a $185 million capital infusion from SKBHC Holdings LLC, is looking for other acquisition candidates all over the West.

“I think there are going to be plenty of other opportunities,” he said, noting SKBHC has access to an additional $500 million in capital.