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Business First Bancshares, Inc. Expands Reach with Acquisition of Waterstone LSP, LLC

by BIZ Magazine

Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 01, 2024 — Business First Bancshares, Inc. (Nasdaq: BFST), the holding company for b1BANK, has announced a significant move to enhance its service offerings with the acquisition of Waterstone LSP, LLC (Waterstone). The definitive agreement, signed today, marks a strategic step for Business First in reinforcing its commitment to small businesses and community banks.

Waterstone, founded in 2012 by Mark Danford and Anthony Parrino, specializes in collaborating with community banks and small business owners to implement and manage the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) loan programs. The acquisition is expected to bring synergies and a more robust set of financial solutions for b1BANK’s clientele.

“We have worked closely, for a number of years, with Waterstone and have been impressed with their deep understanding of both small businesses and the community banks that serve them,” stated Jude Melville, President, and CEO of b1BANK. “With the integration of Waterstone, we look forward to more seamlessly providing SBA-focused alternatives to our core bank clients while also equipping our community bank partners around the country to more comprehensively serve their clients.”

Headquartered in Katy, Texas, Waterstone offers a comprehensive suite of SBA lending services, covering planning, pre-qualification, packaging, closing and disbursements, servicing, and liquidations. This strategic move is poised to enhance b1BANK’s ability to provide tailored financial solutions to its clients.

“From inception, we have been dedicated to building partnerships with our clients because they are not just another number to us. After working with the bank, it was clear to us that b1BANK has the same relationship-based approach to serving clients,” said Mark Danford, President, and CEO of Waterstone. “This merger will provide both teams with opportunities to expand into new markets and provide our clients with additional finance options,” added Anthony Parrino, Chief Financial Officer of Waterstone.

Following the acquisition, Waterstone will operate as a subsidiary of b1BANK and will report through Chief Administrative Officer, Jerry Vascocu. “We are thrilled to welcome the Waterstone team and expand the line of products and services we offer through our Financial Institutions Group (FIG),” commented Vascocu.

The legal aspects of the transaction were handled by Alston & Bird, LLP, representing b1BANK, and Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC, advising Waterstone.

About Business First Bancshares, Inc.: As of December 31, 2023, Business First Bancshares, Inc., through its banking subsidiary b1BANK, boasts $6.6 billion in assets. Operating in markets across Louisiana and the Dallas and Houston, Texas areas, b1BANK provides a range of commercial and personal banking products and services. The bank has garnered recognition, being awarded #1 Best-In-State Bank, Louisiana, by Forbes and Statista, and earning multiple years of recognition in American Banker’s “Best Banks to Work For.”

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