Rumors of BK takeover unfounded

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; Britton & Koontz Bank is not the target of a corporate takeover, Page Ogden, president and CEO said Tuesday.

&8220;I know the rumors have been flying here lately, but I don&8217;t know of any big suitors we have out there,&8221; Ogden said.

Britton & Koontz is doing well, he said. &8220;And the market for community banks like ours is hot. But our board of directors has no desire to eliminate B&K Bank in the community we serve. We all have a tremendous sense of stewardship toward the bank.&8221;

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One impetus for speculation about the sale of the bank may have been Security and Exchange Commission filings by two separate entities earlier this year.

The Schedule 13D filings, one by David M.W. Harvey of Reno, Nev., and the other by Bazile R. Lanneau Jr. of Natchez, call for the bank&8217;s board of directors to pursue a buyer.

The May 23 filing by Harvey, who has filed similar reports on other small banks in which he owns small percentages, indicates that he represents ownership of 147,542 shares of B&K stock, or 6.97 percent.

Total B&K shares outstanding on Sept. 30 were 2.1 million.

In his filing, Harvey refers to the company stock as &8220;undervalued&8221; and says the shareholders would benefit from sale to a larger company.

The Lanneau filing states that B&K stock is &8220;very thinly traded &8230; and undervalued&8221; and that the board should &8220;pursue a sale &8230; to a larger financial services organization.&8221;

A former B&K executive and board member, Lanneau and family members named in the filing own 189,649 shares of stock, or 8.96 percent.

Contacted for comment on the SEC filing, Lanneau said he preferred not to comment at this time but to &8220;let the filing speak for itself.&8221;

Meanwhile, another bank event also may have triggered talk, even though the plan was announced earlier in the year.

On Sept. 15, the bank offered certain employees a &8220;graduated voluntary severance package,&8221; Ogden said. &8220;We extended that offer until Nov. 1.&8221; Tuesday was the last day for the group of employees who chose to take the offer.

&8220;Banking is changing. Technology and certain situations dictate this,&8221; Ogden said. &8220;B&K always tries to be a generous employee and to be a just and fair employee. We&8217;ll have some more details about this severance in about two weeks.&8221;

The Schedule 13D filings are part of being a publicly traded company, Ogden said. &8220;They are shareholders and have the right to say what they want to say. I respect that right,&8221; Ogden said. &8220;With being a public company come all the praise and all the criticism.&8221;

However, the board of directors takes into account the more than 1,000 shareholders of the company when decisions are made.

&8220;We&8217;ll weigh all the complaints. This bank has a very bright future,&8221; Ogden said.

Britton & Koontz Corporation, with headquarters in Natchez, has three banks in Natchez, two in Vicksburg and one in Baton Rouge.