Local Hancock officials have no comment on Whitney, Hancock merger

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, December 23, 2010

A spokesperson for Hancock Bank in Picayune said on Wednesday the local branch had no comment concerning the announcement of a $1.5 billion merger between Hancock Bank and Whitney National Bank of New Orleans.

“We just don’t have enough information concerning it to make any kind of statement,” the spokesperson said, referring the reporter to the Hancock corporate headquarters in Gulfport.

Before the announcement of the merger, Whitney had placed a legal advertisement concerning plans to establish a branch in Picayune along Ridge Road.

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The company wanted the 2.5-acre piece of land rezoned from R-3 to C-3. The hearing is scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 11, before the Picayune Planning Commission.

Whether that is still on was not clear at press time.

Earlier Wednesday morning, news broke that the parent of Hancock Bank, founded in Mississippi 112 years ago, is acquiring New Orleans’ Whitney National Bank, founded in 1883, in a deal valued at about $1.5 billion.

Hancock Holding Co. and Whitney Holding Corp. said Wednesday the stock-for-stock transaction was approved unanimously by both companies’ boards.

Under terms of the transaction, shareholders of Whitney Holding will receive 0.418 shares of Hancock Holding in exchange for each share of Whitney.

Also, Hancock expects to repurchase all of Whitney’s Troubled Asset Relief Program preferred stock and warrants held by the U.S. Treasury. Whitney was one of hundreds of banks that received support during the financial crisis through the government’s Trouble Asset Relief Program, or TARP. It got $300 million in TARP funds.

The combination of “two similarly sized companies with complementary cultures and strong brands creates the premier banking franchise in the Gulf South,” said Whitney Chairman and CEO John C. Hope III.

The combined company will have about $20 billion in total assets, $16 billion in deposits and $12 billion in loans. It will have 305 branches with nearly 5,000 employees across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Hancock Holding is based in Gulfport, Miss., and is the parent company of Hancock Bank of Mississippi and Florida, Hancock Bank of Louisiana, and Hancock Bank of Alabama. It listed assets of about $8.2 billion as of September 30.

Whitney said it had assets of about $11.5 billion as of Sept. 30 and operates in 150 locations in the South.

Hancock expects cost savings of $134 million by 2013, and expects the deal will add 10 percent to earnings in 2012.

The agreement still needs regulatory approval. The companies anticipate completion of the merger in the second quarter of next year.

At mid-morning Wednesday, Hancock stock was trading at $34.94, down $2.1 from Tuesday’s closing price; Whitney’s share price was $14.15, up more than $3.