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The First buying eight Whitney bank branches

HATTIESBURG and GULFPORT — Executives of The First Bancshares Inc., Whitney National Bank and Hancock Bank of Louisiana announced that a subsidiary of The First Bancshares, The First, A National Banking Association, has entered into a branch purchase and assumption agreement with Whitney National Bank and Hancock Bank of Louisiana to acquire seven Whitney branches located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and one Whitney branch in Bogalusa, La.

Terms were not disclosed.

As part of the branch acquisition, Hattiesburg-based The First expects to acquire approximately $68 million in loans and to assume approximately $195 million in deposits.

The First president and CEO M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole Jr., said, “The First is excited about the opportunity to more than double our presence along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which we believe is a very attractive market, as well as expand into the neighboring Louisiana market.”

On Dec. 22, 2010, Gulfport-based Hancock Holding Company, parent company of Hancock Bank, and New Orleans-based Whitney Holding Corporation, parent company of Whitney, announced that the companies had entered into a definitive agreement for Hancock Holding to acquire Whitney Holding, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals and other customary closing conditions.

On May 17, Hancock and Whitney agreed to sell the eight Mississippi and Louisiana branches to the First to resolve certain branch concentration concerns of the U.S. Department of Justice relating to the merger of Whitney into Hancock.

The branch acquisition by The First is contingent on the closing of the proposed merger between Hancock Holding and Whitney Holding, which is expected to occur in the second quarter of 2011.

Source: Hancock Holding

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