Hancock, Whitney to merge companies

Hancock Holding Company, parent company of 112-year-old Hancock Bank, and Whitney Holding Corporation, founded in 1883, announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Whitney to merge into Hancock in a stock-for-stock transaction.

The transaction was approved unanimously by both companies' boards of directors.

"Hancock and Whitney were both founded to facilitate commerce and opportunities for people throughout the Gulf South region," said Hancock Holding Company Chief Executive Officer Carl J. Chaney said in a press release. "For more than a century, both institutions have served complementary geographical footprints according to core values that reflect the spirit of those communities - integrity, service, resilience, and teamwork.

"We believe this agreement presents an unprecedented opportunity to enhance shareholder value and strengthen the financial options available to individuals and businesses from Texas to Central Florida."

Under the terms of the agreement, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval and other customary conditions, shareholders of Whitney Holding Company will receive 0.418 shares of Hancock Holding Company common stock in exchange for each share of Whitney common stock. The value of a Whitney share would be $15.48 based on Hancock's closing price on December 21, 2010 of $37.04, a premium of 42 percent to Whitney's closing price of $10.87 on the same date.

The combined company will have approximately $20 billion in total assets, $16 billion in deposits, $12 billion in loans, 305 branches, 390 ATMs, and almost 5,000 employees across the five contiguous states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Subject to the receipt of requisite approvals, Hancock expects to purchase all of Whitney's TARP preferred stock and warrants held by the U.S. Treasury from the U.S. Treasury at closing.

With anticipated completion in the second quarter of 2011, the merger will combine two of the Gulf South's most respected financial services leaders. Hancock Holding Company expects to realize substantial cost savings of $134 million on a pre-tax basis once fully phased in by 2013 and anticipates that the transaction will be ten percent accretive to earnings in 2012 and 19 percent accretive once the synergies are fully phased in for 2013. Following the merger, Hancock Holding Company expects to retain its strong capital position and anticipates an 8 percent tangible common equity ratio after restructuring charges and an anticipated common stock raise of approximately $200 million.

Five members of the Whitney board of directors will join the Hancock board upon completion of the merger.

"The merger of two similarly sized companies with complementary cultures and strong brands creates the premier banking franchise in the Gulf South," said Whitney Holding Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John C. Hope, III.

"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. Joining with a well-known, well-respected, and well-capitalized company like Hancock positions us to be even more competitive in the markets where we operate. 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."

Read more about this story in Thursday's Sun Herald.