SCBT-First Financial merger to create $5B bank in S.C.

Staff Report
Published Feb. 20, 2013

The $302 million merger of Columbia-based SCBT Financial Corp. and First Financial Holdings Inc. of Charleston, announced today, would create the state’s fifth-largest bank with more than $5 billion in deposits and 115 branches in South Carolina.

Throughout its entire system — spread through South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia — the new bank will have $6.9 billion in deposits and 148 branches.

The merger also links one of the dominant regional banks along the coast with another rooted in the Midlands with a growing presence along the Interstate 85 corridor between Charlotte and Atlanta.

First Financial CEO Wayne Hall
First Financial CEO Wayne Hall
SCBT CEO Robert Hill Jr.
SCBT CEO Robert Hill Jr.
Wayne Hall, president and CEO of First Financial, said the merger is a natural fit of two companies with similar cultures and complementary strengths.

“We believe it’s going to create a dominant Southeast institution. We believe we will be able to leverage our power, our capital and the synergies around,” Hall said.

The two companies, founded during the Great Depression some 80 years ago, have been talking about a possible merger since 2009, said Robert Hill Jr., president and CEO of SCBT.

“Either it was not the right time for one company or the other,” Hill said.

But now, after both companies have expanded through a series of acquisitions of smaller banks, the timing is right to put together a merger, Hill said.

The merger probably will close sometime in the third quarter of this year, but Hill said that it might be the later part of 2014 before the merger is complete.

First Financial’s stockholders will see their shares converted into 0.4237 shares of SCBT stock, worth about $18.30 each. When trading began today, First Financial’s shares opened at $16.50 per share. SCBT’s shares began the day at $43.18 and as of 1 p.m., the company was trading 78 cents higher per share.

One of the first decisions of the merger was to change the name of SCBT Financial, the holding company for South Carolina Bank & Trust, to First Financial Holdings.

Hall will be president of the holding company and Paula Harper Bethea, the current chair of First Financial, will assume the role of vice chair of the board.

Hill will serve as CEO and Robert Horger will remain board chairman. Five First Financial board members will join the combined board of directors.

One decision that needs to be made before the transition is completed is picking a name for the banks. SCBT presently has five different brands of banks in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

Some of the traits that companies share include operating under a community banking model. Both have mortgage, wealth management, retail and commercial business.

Through the merger, the companies will vault to No. 1 in terms of market share in Hilton Head Island and Georgetown. Combined, they’ll be No. 2 in Charleston, No. 4 in Florence, No. 5 in Greenville and No. 6 in Myrtle Beach.

Founded in 1934, First Financial operates First Federal Bank, which has 66 locations in the Carolinas and ranks eighth in deposit market share.

Upon completion of the transaction, the combined company will have approximately $8.3 billion in total assets, $6.9 billion in total deposits and $6.1 billion in total loans. The new company will generate more than $2 billion in mortgage loans, ranking fourth in mortgage market share.

First Financial’s wealth management division when combined with SCBT’s wealth management group will have total assets under management of approximately $2.35 billion.

The companies have about 2,200 employees.

Previous coverage

SCBT Financial, First Financial to merge
SCBT reports 23% jump in Q4 income
SCBT Financial completes takeover of Savannah Bancorp
Acquisition gives SCBT opportunity to expand wealth management group
SCBT rebrands Peoples Bancorp. offices
First Financial reverses year-end loss
Treasury Department to sell stock in Charleston-based bank

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