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Paynesville Press - April 07, 2004

Community First sold to BancWest

By Michael Jacobson

Community First National Bank has been purchased by BancWest. Shares of Community First Bankshares, Inc., the parent company of Community First National Bank, were purchased recently, at a premium price, by BancWest for $1.2 billion.

Community First National Bank operates 155 branches in 12 states in the southwest, Rocky mountains, and great plains, including Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It has a branch in Paynesville.

At the end of 2003, Community First Bankshares had total assets of $5.5 billion, with deposits of $4.4 billion and loans of $3.3 billion.

BancWest is a bank holding company whose principal subsidiaries are Bank of the West and First Hawaiian Bank. Since 2001, BancWest has been a subsidiary of BNP Paribas.

Later this year, Community First branches will become part of Bank of the West, adding ten new states to the bank. Bank of the West presently has 296 branches in six western states.

Following the acquisition, Bank of the West will have $44 billion in assets and will serve 3.4 million accounts in more than 500 branches in 17 states.

"Community First has a philosophy of local decision-making, supporting their communities, and building long-term client relationships - a perfect match for Bank of the West," said Don McGrath, president of BancWest and CEO of Bank of the West. "Because there is virtually no geographic overlap in our branch structures, this is a transaction that's about building, not cutting."

"Although the sign on the door will change, Community First customers will find the same familiar faces in their branches. And they'll find the same personal service that they're used to because that's also been a Bank of the West tradition for 130 years," added McGrath.

The acquisition has been approved by the boards of BancWest, Community First Bankshares, and BNP Paribas. It still must be approved by Community First shareholders and by state and federal banking regulators. Once this is done, the merger could be completed in the fall, with Community First branches then becoming part of the Bank of the West.

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