Acadiana Business

Whitney-Hancock deal complete; merger likely to be a smooth one

by Heather Miller

Less than six months after Hancock announced its purchase of Louisiana's Whitney Bank, the two financial institutions emerge as one company worth an estimated $19.6 billion.

Shareholders of Whitney Bank are now trading stocks under HBHC, the symbol for Hancock Holding Co., as Saturday night marked Hancock's legal acquisition of what used to be Louisiana's largest bank.

Hancock Holding Co. Chief Executive Carl Chaney told The Times Picayune he expects the integration of the two financial institutions to be more amiable than other mergers he has overseen in the past, mostly because of the striking similarities in how the two banks operate in terms of lending cultures and spots in their respective markets.

As part of the deal announced in December, Mississippi-based Hancock will pay back $311 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program loans for Whitney. The new joint company, according to The T-P, is worth roughly $19.6 billion. Branches in Louisiana and Texas will still retain the Whitney name, while Alabama, Mississippi and Florida will bear the Hancock logo. The company headquarters will be in Gulfport, Miss.

It's still unclear how many of the 5,000 jobs between the companies will be lost due to the merger, though Chaney says "most tellers and people who deal with the public" will keep their jobs:

While the systems of the two companies won't be melded until early next year, customers and shareholders will see some immediate benefits from the merger.

While the transaction is expected to start contributing to Hancock's earnings in 2012, one concern on analysts' minds is how Hancock will do in absorbing a company that's about 40 percent bigger by asset size.

Jonathan Briggs, managing director of Chaffe & Associates in New Orleans ... said that it's not just that the smaller bank is swallowing the larger bank, but the fact that with Hancock at $8.1 billion in assets and Whitney at $11.5 billion in assets, both institutions are already pretty hefty.

The Hancock-Whitney deal will be challenging because both companies are large and complex, and Hancock could decide that Whitney's technology or certain processes are better than its own and decide to adopt those companywide rather than switching everything over to Hancock's systems.

Read more on the acquisition here.