California bank buys into FNSC

A privately held West Coast bank begun just a few years after the California Gold Rush is apparently betting that embattled First National Bancshares of Spartanburg can weather its current troubles.

California-based Bank of Stockton recently either fully purchased or increased its holdings in First National to 450,000, or 5.77 percent of outstanding shares, according to a recent US Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The filing doesn’t state whether the Bank of Stockton had owned any shares of First National prior this event, which took place in early December. Stock in First National is currently selling for around 85 cents a share.

First National has struggled for more than two years. It hasn’t released its annual earnings report for 2009, but through the first three quarters had lost $1.36 million. That came on the heels of a staggering  $44.8 million loss in 2008.

The Bank of Stockton, based about an hour south of Sacramento, was begun in 1867, when 29 businessmen pooled $100,000 in gold coins, according to information found on the company’s website.

Today, it has nearly $2 billion in assets, though it has never expanded beyond the borders of the Golden State.


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