BancorpSouth, others to mergers

BY DENNIS SEID

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mergers with two bank holding companies will push BancorpSouth's assets to $11 billion, maintaining its position in the nation's top 50 largest banks.

On Friday, BancorpSouth officials announced its mergers with Premier Bancorp Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., and Business Holding Corp. of Baton Rouge, La.

Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the mergers are expected to occur in the first quarter of 2005. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed, but BancorpSouth said it expects its 2005 earnings to be diluted by about 2 cents per share.

Aubrey Patterson, BancorpSouth chairman and CEO, said the moves “are great opportunities for us and them. They have great management teams, very good customer bases and they have great businesses. This is about good relationship-type banking.”

Patterson, who was flying to meet personnel at both banks, said the mergers will help the smaller banks provide more competitive services.

“If we do our job,” he said, “we'll give them the opportunity to grow and help strengthen them.”

Third-fastest growing county

With the acquisition of Premier Bancorp, BancorpSouth will be able to expand its presence in fast-growing Williamson County and nearby Davidson County.

According to American City Business Journals, Williamson County is third in the nation in terms of growth potential.

Premier Bancorp is the holding company for Premier Bank of Brentwood, which has almost $151 million in commercial assets.

The bank was established in 1997 and has two locations in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville.

In a press release, Premier Bank chairman and CEO Jim Harris said the merger would help the bank he founded grow more rapidly.

“Joining with BancorpSouth will provide our customers opportunities offered by a large, resourceful, community-minded bank,” he said.

BancorpSouth established a loan production office in the Maryland Farms area in Brentwood in 2002 and expanded it to full-service banking.

BancorpSouth already has a strong presence in West Tennessee, with more than $1 billion in deposits in 33 locations in 20 cities including Memphis and Jackson.

BancorpSouth's foray into Baton Rouge isn't its first. It's Insurance Services division merged with Wright & Percy Insurance in 2003. Wright & Percy, headquartered in Baton Rouge, is Louisiana's oldest and largest insurance agency and has offices in Lake Charles and Shreveport.

Business Holding Corp. is the parent for The Business Bank of Baton Rouge, with almost $164 million in assets. Founded in 1998, The Business Bank provides commercial banking services in East Baton Rouge Parish and other nearby communities.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer III serves as the bank's president. He said the merger “will allow us to provide more sophisticated banking services to our current and prospective customers.”

BancorpSouth has 13 locations in East and Central Louisiana, including Shreveport, Bossier City, Monroe, West Monroe, Rayville and Ruston.

The merger will give BancorpSouth about $600 million in deposits in Louisiana.

Patterson said the company would continue to look for key markets, adding to its nearly 260 locations across the Southeast. “We're the 46th largest bank in the country, and we're right here in Tupelo,” he said. “We have 850 jobs here, and it's because they support our operations in six states. It says a lot about our people.”

Contact Dennis Seid at 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com