Both companies have go ahead from regulatory agencies; Oct. 1 sale expectedBank of Astoria shareholders have approved a deal that would allow Tacoma, Wash.-based Columbia Banking System, Inc. to acquire the local bank.

The shareholders "perceived it as a new opportunity to move the bank forward," said Bill Shaw, who chairs the Bank of Astoria board.

Cheri Folk, president and CEO of the Bank of Astoria, said preliminary results from Tuesday's vote showed that 78.4 percent of shareholders supported the move, with 1.91 percent voting "no" and 0.39 percent abstaining. The remaining percentage consisted of shareholders who did not vote or those who are not counted, for example those who hold shares in brokerage accounts.

The merger needed at least a two-thirds vote to be approved Tuesday. The boards of directors of both banks had approved a "definitive agreement" on the acquisition in early June.

Once the merger is complete, Bank of Astoria will be operated as a subsidiary of Columbia and still maintain its board. The companies have received approval from regulatory agencies, and anticipate that the sale will be final Oct. 1.

Columbia's president and CEO, Melanie Dressel, said in June that she didn't expect any significant staff reductions at the Bank of Astoria as a result of the merger.

Shaw said that the merger will allow the Bank of Astoria to offer more products and services, and will increase the availability of larger lines of credit to commercial customers. He added that the banks are working on allowing customers to have access to all of the branches in Oregon and Washington.

The Bank of Astoria, with $169.8 million in assets, is Clatsop County's only independent bank. It was formed in 1967 by North Coast businessmen and now operates five branches, in Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside, Cannon Beach and Manzanita.

Columbia was formed in 1993 and operates 34 banking offices in Pierce, King, Cowlitz, Kitsap and Thurston counties in Washington. It has previously acquired two other banks, the Bank of Fife and Cascade Community Bank in Auburn, Wash. Dressel said previously that the current merger was part of the bank's plans to expand from Washington state to the Pacific Northwest market.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Columbia will pay $18.2 million in cash and issue 1,277,750 shares of common stock. Columbia closed on the Nasdaq Wednesday with its stock at $24.36, which would make the value of the stock approximately $31.1 million and the value of the acquisition $49.3 million.

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