Harris H. Simmons

Zions Bancorp. has made many acquisitions over the past two decades, but its leader said Tuesday that the Salt Lake-based corporation could face its own takeover by a foreign company.

Harris H. Simmons, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Zions Bancorp. and chairman of Zions Bank, told the Salt Lake Rotary that the weak U.S. dollar is resulting in major foreign investments.

"I do think we have within the banking industry what is considered one of the really choice franchises in the United States," Simmons said, noting the strong population growth that has occurred in the 10 states where Zions operates banks.

But, he added, "we are not looking to sell the company. That's not in our plans."

The best defense against a takeover is the quality of the corporation, he said, but hurting that is the company's stock price. It has slipped from $82.44 per share at the end of 2006 to Tuesday's closing price of $53.22, although the percentage drop is typical of the industry during that time, he said. During the past year, the price has been as high as $88.56 and as low as $48.51.

"The trick for us is to make sure that we come through this in strong shape and do it the best way we can," Simmons said. "But that's simply the best defense. Our hope is to be around here a good, long time."

Simmons noted that Zions Bancorp. has made many mergers and acquisitions. Formed in 1957, it was a local bank with $120 million in assets in the early 1960s. Several acquisitions have led to the current corporation, an entity with $50 billion in assets and more than 500 offices and 600 ATMs in 10 Western states.

Zions' approach has been to maintain separate charters and local boards, managers and brand names in the local markets, Simmons said, and the overall growth likely isn't finished.

Zions' outlook is buoyed by the expected population growth in the bank's 10-state region. The individual state populations are projected to boom anywhere from 35 percent to 114 percent through the year 2030, for an average of 51 percent — far ahead of the national growth outlook, he said.

"It's a growth profile that will provide us with a lot of opportunity," Simmons said. "We think we have as much growth potential as any major bank in the United States."


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