Bar Harbor Bankshares announces plan to acquire Lake Sunapee Bank of N.H.

BAR HARBOR — The parent company of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust announced on Thursday its plan to acquire a New Hampshire-based banking group, a merger that would significantly increase the Maine bank’s footprint and stature in the region.

Bar Harbor Bankshares has reached an agreement to acquire Lake Sunapee Bank Group in an all-stock transaction valued at about $143 million. The deal has received unanimous approval from the boards of directors of both companies, and now awaits shareholder approval and clearance from state and federal regulators.

If those are all favorable, the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

“This is tremendous for our company for a lot of reasons,” said Curtis Simard, president and chief executive officer of Bar Harbor Bankshares.

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust has 15 branch locations from Lubec to Topsham, while Lake Sunapee Bank has 35 branches in west-central New Hampshire and central Vermont.

While those 35 branches are expected to continue operating under the Lake Sunapee brand following the merger, Simard said Bar Harbor Bankshares will serve as the parent company and sole reporting institution for those branches as well as Bar Harbor Bank & Trust’s branches.

Simard said the merger stands to elevate Bar Harbor to the fifth-largest community bank in New England in terms of assets.

Although the merger means a bigger banking company, Simard said Bar Harbor Bankshares will retain its local ties beyond just its name.

“Some people are going to see this and say we’re not local, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “We’re still going to be headquartered here and we’re investing in people and jobs.”

Indeed, Simard said the bank is “going to need to expand our employee base,” as operations for the merged company including information technology will be based in Maine.

The Bar Harbor bank added 13 senior vice president positions in 2015 and also undertook extensive renovations to its Main Street headquarters in downtown Bar Harbor. In its annual report for 2015, Bar Harbor Bankshares noted the changes were made to “better position the company for future growth,” a point Simard echoed after the merger was announced.

Simard said the acquisition should assure customers, employees and shareholders that the bank is in a strong position going forward. He said customers will still see the same people and have the same relationships in their local branches, but that the merger will mean “better access to better products” as a result of the collective resources of the combined companies.

Discussions on the merger began earlier this year, Simard said, and Lake Sunapee was seen as an attractive choice in part because of what he called a similar culture.

“Our branch people know you by name, and know your kids’ names and your grandmother’s name,” he said. “They’re trying to come up with the best solution for the customer and are not treating people like a transaction, and they [Lake Sunapee] operate in a very similar fashion.”

Simard said the communities in which Lake Sunapee operates “feel a lot like our towns and communities.”

“It’s really just an extension of who we are already,” he said, of acquiring Lake Sunapee.

The merger will expand the Bar Harbor bank’s footprint from five counties in Maine (Hancock, Washington, Penobscot, Kennebec and Sagadahoc) to three states. Simard said William J. McIver, currently the chief operating officer at Lake Sunapee, will continue with the combined company as executive vice president/regional president, New Hampshire and Vermont markets.

Stephen Theroux, Lake Sunapee’s president and chief executive office, will be one of four Lake Sunapee directors added to Bar Harbor Bankshares’ board of directors. That will bring the total membership of the Bar Harbor Bankshares board to 15.

“We’re excited to welcome our colleagues,” Simard said.

Theroux has Maine ties, having graduated from Bowdoin College, while Simard is no stranger to the Granite State after living and working in New Hampshire for 20 years.

The merger agreement calls for each outstanding share of Lake Sunapee stock to be exchanged for 0.4970 shares of Bar Harbor common stock. Upon closing, Bar Harbor shareholders will own approximately 59 percent of the combined company’s stock while Lake Sunapee shareholders will own approximately 41 percent.

At closing, the combined institution is expected to have approximately $3.3 billion in assets, $2.4 billion in net loans, $2.2 billion in deposits and more than $2.0 billion in assets under management (Lake Sunapee’s wealth management subsidiary, Charter Trust Co., manages more than $1.6 billion in assets).

Simard said he sees the merger as exciting news for Mount Desert Island, the coastal region as a whole and the entire state of Maine.

“It really changes the profile of the bank,” he said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to make Bar Harbor, as an institution, really well-known. We have a tremendous bank, and now other people are going to get to see that, too.”

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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