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Nara and Center merge to form BBCN, largest Korean American bank

November 29, 2011 | 11:07 am

Nara2007KoreatownLoriShepler
Center Financial Corp.'s merger into onetime Koreatown rival Nara Bancorp Inc. will create the largest U.S. bank focused on the ethnic Korean market, an institution with nearly $5.3 billion in assets that will be named BBCN Bank.

The parent companies of Center Bank and Nara Bank were scheduled to announce completion of their merger on Wednesday afternoon. BBCN will be the seventh-largest bank based in Los Angeles County, with $4.4 billion in deposits and 40 branches in California, New York, New Jersey, Seattle and Chicago.

The banks, like many other Asian American institutions, have specialized in loans to smaller businesses. About half of their assets are in commercial mortgages, a banking sector whose losses during the recession have increased pressures on the ethnic banks to consolidate.

They announced plans to merge last December, with Center shareholders receiving about $270 million in Nara stock. Alvin Kang, Nara's chief executive, will become chief executive of the merged bank.

The new name derives from Business Bank of Center and Nara, a name that was under consideration but lost out to the shorter BBCN.

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A power shift in Koreatown
--E. Scott Reckard
 
Photo: Nara Bank is merging with Center Bank to create BBCN Bank. Credit: Los Angeles Times  
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