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Saudi Investor Negotiating to Buy Independence Bank

Times Staff Writer

A Saudi Arabian tycoon with international banking interests is negotiating to buy Encino-based Independence Bank, a 10-branch bank that is the largest headquartered in the San Fernando Valley.

Sources familiar with the transaction said the Saudi investor, Ghaith R. Pharaon, is scheduled to complete the acquisition next week.

The deal could provide a financial shot in the arm for the bank, which has grown slowly recently.

The deal also is another effort by Pharaon to buy a California-based firm. The Harvard-educated investor reportedly made a unsuccessful bid last year for Parsons Corp., a Pasadena-based engineering firm, and was part of an investor group that unsuccessfully bid for Kaiser Steel in 1981.

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Pharaon’s interests include sole ownership of Atlanta-based National Bank of Georgia, the state’s sixth-largest bank. Pharaon acquired controlling interest in the bank in 1978 from Bert Lance, the controversial budget director under former President Jimmy Carter.

Pharaon also owns an 18% stake in Bank of Credit & Commerce International, a Luxembourg-based bank with extensive interests in the Middle East. He also has had ventures in construction, real estate and shipping.

A National Bank of Georgia spokesman said that Pharaon disclosed earlier this month in Atlanta that he was “preparing to complete” the acquisition of Independence. Pharaon could not be reached Thursday, and Independence officials were unavailable or unwilling to comment.

A source familiar with Independence said the institution had been for sale for some time. Its current owners, a group of Hong Kong investors doing business under the name Halifax Bancorp, acquired the 22-year-old bank in 1980.

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Independence Bank had assets of $218.8 million as of June 30, up from $212.2 million at the end of 1984 but down from $224.3 million at the end of 1983.

The bank reported a profit of $375,000 during the second quarter ended June 30, down 3.6% from the year-ago period. For 1984, it reported a profit of $1.2 million, up 11.1% from the previous year.


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