PremierWest wants reverse stock split to help its price

PremierWest Bancorp wants to boost its stock price through a reverse stock split.

In proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Medford-based PremierWest said it will ask shareholders at a special meeting in December to approve one of three options for the reverse split.

According to the filing, PremierWest could reduce its number of common stock shares by an exchange ratio of one for five, one for 10 or one for 15. The company's board also could decide not to take any action.

"The board's primary objective in proposing the reverse stock split is to raise the per-share trading price of the company's common stock sufficiently above the $1 minimum bid price requirement for continued listing on The NASDAQ Capital Market," PremierWest said in its filing.

Nasdaq notified PremierWest on March 15 that it was out of compliance after shares slipped below $1. It was given until Sept. 13 to boost its stock price above the $1 figure for 10 consecutive business days and then was granted an additional 180-day period to comply, ending March 11, 2011.

"We believe that a delisting from Nasdaq could have a negative impact on the value and liquidity of our common stock and ability to access the capital markets in the future," PremierWest told its shareholders. "The board determined that continued listing on The NASDAQ Capital Market is beneficial to the company and its shareholders."

The ceiling of 150 million shares of common stock would remain, the filing said.

"As a result, there can be no assurance that the market price of our common stock will increase following the reverse stock split that the market price of the common stock will not decrease in the future or that we will be able to meet and continue to meet Nasdaq's continued listing requirements," the company said in the filing.

If shareholders approve the request, PremierWest said its board will choose an exchange ratio considering: historical trading prices and volume of stock; the stock's prevailing trading price and volume; number of outstanding shares; the reverse stock split's anticipated impact on the market; and prevailing general market and economic conditions.

No specific date has been set for the December meeting.

— Greg Stiles

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