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JOINING FORCES

Hancock and Whitney banks merge to form the America’s 32nd largest financial services institution

Two of the Gulf South’s oldest financial institutions will complete a merger during the second quarter of this year to become the 32nd largest financial services institution in the United States. Gulfport-based Hancock Holding Company, parent company of 112-year-old Hancock Bank, and Whitney Holding Corporation, founded in 1883, have agreed for Whitney to merge into Hancock in a stock-for-stock transaction, which was unanimously approved by both companies’ boards of directors.

“With the completion of the transaction, Hancock Holding Company’s assets will grow from approximately $8.2 billion to almost $20 billion, based on current figures,” said Carl J. Chaney, president and CEO of Hancock Holding Company. “Consolidating the products and services of the two institutions is a very complex undertaking. However, ultimately, the results will provide even more comprehensive money management choices for the current consumer and business customers of both institutions.”

Plans call for bank locations in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to fall under the Hancock Bank brand. In Louisiana and Texas, banks will retain the Whitney brand. In addition to almost $20 million in total assets, the merged banks will have $16 billion in deposits, $12 billion in loans, 305 branches, 390 ATMs and nearly 5,000 employees in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

“Both Hancock and Whitney have deep roots in the region,” Chaney said. “Both banks’ histories and founding ideals are very similar; and community commitment has been part of both banks’ legacies for more than a century. This partnership simply further energizes the company’s role in facilitating commerce and opportunity for the people and places we serve.”

Whitney Holding Corporation chairman and CEO John C. Hope III said the Whitney board of directors consulted with its senior management team, as well as outside legal and financial advisors, and considered a number of factors in reaching its decision.

“By joining with a well-known, well-respected and well-capitalized company like Hancock we will be positioned to be even more competitive in the markets where we operate,” he added. “Not only does this transaction create significant shareholder value, I believe it is also the best course of action for our employees, customers and communities.”

Chaney says it is still too early to speculate on specific leadership positions for Whitney executives, but that Whitney leaders will have significant representation on the resulting management team and at a market level. “Hancock remains committed to local leadership with a vested interest in helping and growing the commonalities in which they live, work and raise families,” he said.

Reaction from customers of both institutions has been positive, he said, once they understand the advantage of the merger in terms of enhanced products, services and convenience. Being able to utilize more then 300 branches throughout the Gulf South region from Houston, Tex., to Tampa, Fla., is powerful, he noted.

Leading up to the agreement, Hancock and Whitney have had a competitive but friendly relationship for many years and have shared many connections in Whitney’s home market of New Orleans. “The first two presidents of Hancock Bank also served simultaneously as presidents of the original Bank of New Orleans, which ultimately became part of Whitney Bank,” Chaney said. “Today, Whitney’s footprint, in many regards, mirrors Hancock’s business presence throughout the Gulf South.”

He says the merger will complement Hancock’s presence in existing markets and expand the company’s presence into new markets such as Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., and Houston, Tex.

“The array of commercial banking solutions that Whitney has designed will augment Hancock’s commercial and wealth management suites of products and services to create premier business banking opportunities for large and small companies alike,” Chaney said. “Hancock’s strong array of retail banking and insurance options will complement Whitney’s mix. Additional locations will enhance convenience for customers in all markets.”

Hope says the merger of two similarly sized companies with complementary cultures and strong brands creates the premier banking franchise in the Gulf South. “The organization will be the employer of choice in the Southeast, maintain a conservative management culture, a commitment to strong capital, and a diversified earnings stream,” he said.

Looking to the future, Chaney says Hancock Holding Company will consider opportunities that are in the best interest of shareholders and customers, just as it always has. “Further expansion is certainly possible, if the right fit for Hancock’s strategic vision and core values should arise,” he said.

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