Washington Mutual To Buy Savings Bank In Vancouver

Washington Mutual Savings Bank, which already this year has completed three other acquisitions, today signed an agreement to buy Vancouver Federal Savings Bank in Southwest Washington.

The cash offer, still to be approved by regulators and shareholders, is worth about $23.3 million, or $19 a share. VanFed Bancorp's stock closed at $9.25 a share in over-the-counter trading Friday, up 23 percent for the week. It was trading today at $15.50.

The higher $19 offer reflects the fact that VanFed is not in financial trouble, but is ``a well-run institution,'' said Scott Selby, manager of Washington Mutual's corporate communications.

To discourage other suitors, VanFed Bancorp granted Washington Mutual an option to purchase 9.9 percent of VanFed Bancorp's shares. That allows Washington Mutual a chance to buy a sizeable piece of VanFed in the event another buyer materializes. Each party is subject to payment of fees, if it should elect not to proceed with the transaction.

VanFed Savings operates in seven locations in the Vancouver area, and has assets of about $306 million and deposits of about $254 million. Washington Mutual operates 75 branches in Washington, including a newly open one in Vancouver, and 18 home-loan centers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Washington Mutual has assets of $7 billion and deposits of $4.3 billion.

Earlier this year, Washington Mutual acquired Washington retail operations of Old Stone Bank for $10 million, Frontier Federal of Walla Walla for $1.8 million and the Williamsburg Savings Association of Utah for $1.25 million. The latter two were handled by the Resolution Trust Corp., which helps find buyers for troubled savings and loan organizations.

Kerry Killinger, Washington Mutual president and chief executive officer, said the two Washington financial organizations share a number of traditions: emphasis on customer service, a focus on the consumer and service to the community. He said the merger would give Washington Mutual about 16 percent of the Vancouver deposit market.

VanFed is the Clark County leader in residential mortgages while Washington Mutual, a mortgage-lending leader in the state, also is a leader in the Greater Portland area.

Loren Means, VanFed president and chief executive office, said the resources of the merger ``will enable economies of scale to be achieved that we are unable to obtain as a stand-alone entity.'' He said the combined organizations will offer broader service to customers in the region.

David Randall, VanFed executive vice president, said he had no information on whether there will be personnel changes as a result of the sale.

The transaction is subject to approvals from the Office of Thrift Supervision, VanFed Savings' primary regulator, and shareholders. VanFed converted from mutual to stock form in 1989. It was founded in 1920.

The process could take eight to 10 months.