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Jul 3, 2012 8:52 AM by Marnee Banks, Dennis Bragg - MTN News

American Federal buying Sterling Bank branches

HELENA- A Montana banking company is dramatically expanding its operations in a multimillion dollar transaction with Eagle Bancorp Montana, Inc announcing that its subsidiary, American Federal Savings Bank, is purchasing seven branches from Sterling Savings Bank.

This $7.3 million transaction, announced on Monday, makes American Federal the 6th largest banking institution in Montana with thirteen branches in nine cities.

American Federal's President and CEO Peter Johnson says all of Sterling's employees will stay on and they will in fact look at hiring more staff.

"We are truly thrilled to be expanding our footprint with these branch locations," Johnson says. "This transaction will provide our existing customers with added convenience and service and our new customers with the opportunity to enjoy the outstanding personalized service and commitment of a Montana-based community bank."

"We pride ourselves in excellent customer service and so do they. They bring a lot to the table in terms of business development which is an area we area looking to improve on," Johnson says. "So we'll be able to take that platform that they have and implement it in our branches. And we'll be able to take some product offerings that we have and roll them out in their markets as well."

American Federal will acquire about $187 million of deposits under the terms of the agreement and Eagle will receive approximately $44 million of pass-rated, performing loans.

Johnson says once the transaction is complete American Federal will be servicing $235 million in loans and more than $400 million in deposits.

Eagle will expand to 13-branches under terms of the deal. That gives it two branches in Missoula, one in Billings and one each in Hamilton, Livingston and Big Timber. The seventh branch in the deal is in Bozeman, where there's already an American Federal Savings Bank branch.

American Federal has banks in Helena, Townsend, Bozeman and Butte while Sterling Savings Bank is based in Spokane.

The sale should be complete during the second quarter of Eagle's fiscal year of 2013. The move sees Sterling, which is based in Spokane, pulling out of the Montana market and consolidating its operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

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