Justice Department: Whitney branches must be sold

GULFPORT — Hancock Holding Co.’s proposed $1.5-billion acquisition of Gulf Coast banking rival Whitney Holding Corp. passes antitrust muster, provided that eight Whitney offices in Mississippi and Louisiana are sold, the Justice Department said April 1.

Under an agreement with the government, New Orleans-based Whitney will sell its entire network of seven branches in the Biloxi and Gulfport areas of Mississippi, along with $155.4 million in deposits and one office in Bogalusa, La., along with $46.7 million in deposits.

The divestitures will include commercial loans associated with the branches.

The Justice Department said it would advise the Federal Reserve, which must approve the acquisition, that it would not challenge the deal if the sales are made.

“With the divestiture, consumers and small businesses in local markets in Louisiana and Mississippi will continue to enjoy the benefits of competition in banking services,” said Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division.

Gulfport-based Hancock announced the $1.5-billion stock deal to acquire Whitney in December. As part of the deal, Hancock intends to buy back Whitney preferred shares, which were issued to the U.S. Treasury in exchange for $300 million as part of the government’s troubled asset relief program.

The combined bank will have about $20 billion in assets and about $16 billion in total deposits. The Justice Department said it would become the 32nd largest bank in the United States.

Source: Associated Press

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