Atlantic Coast Financial in Fla. agrees to be sold to Ameris Bancorp

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Atlantic Coast Financial in Jacksonville, Fla., has agreed to sell itself to Ameris Bancorp in Moultrie, Ga.

The $7.6 billion-asset Ameris said in a press release Friday that it will pay $145 million in cash and stock for the $922 million-asset Atlantic Coast. The deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, priced Atlantic Coast at 160% of its tangible book value.

"We view this transaction as an extension of our plan to build scale in northeast Florida,” Edwin Hortman Jr., Ameris’ president and CEO, said in the release. “We are excited to grow our franchise with an outstanding team and high quality customer base.”

Atlantic Coast has 12 branches, eight in the Jacksonville area.

Ameris said it expects to incur roughly $12 million in merger-related charges. It also plans to cut 55% of Atlantic Coast's annual noninterest expenses.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Rogers & Hardin advised Ameris. Hovde Group and Igler and Pearlman advised Atlantic Coast.

Ameris has been an active acquirer in Florida, buying several Bank of America branches and Jacksonville Bancorp.

The company, however, has been operating under a December 2016 consent order tied to Bank Secrecy Act compliance. Still, the lingering order did not prevent the company from agreeing in February to buy U.S. Premium Finance from Brand Group Holdings.

Ameris has said it expects to be freed from the consent order by the end of this year.

Atlantic Coast has gone through its share of turmoil. The company’s CEO, G. Thomas Frankland, resigned in 2013 after a group led by veteran banker Jay Sidhu successfully rejected the company’s planned sale to Bond Street Holdings.

Sidhu is Atlantic Coast’s vice chairman.

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