BB&T Corp. continued its Georgia buying spree on Wednesday, announcing its fifth proposed acquisition in the state this year with a deal to buy First Banking Co. of Southeast Georgia for $124.2 million in stock.
The deal is scheduled to close in the spring.
First Banking, which is based in Statesboro, has $419 million of assets and 12 branches. The deal would bring Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T's Georgia presence to $5 billion of assets and 103 branches and make it the state's sixth-largest banking company.
BB&T, which had no presence in Georgia when the year began, entered the state in July by purchasing First Citizens Corp., near Atlanta. Last month it closed a deal for First Liberty Financial Corp. in Macon, and it also has agreements to buy Premier Bancshares in Atlanta and Hardwick Holding Co. in Dalton.
"Georgia is a great market, with areas of exceptional growth," Burney S. Warren, executive vice president for mergers and acquisitions at $41.6 billion-asset BB&T, said in an interview. "It looks to us a lot like the Carolinas, where we have operated and competed successfully for a long time."
In total, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company has now pledged more than $1.4 billion this year toward buying Georgia banks.
Through all the dealing, BB&T's stock has held up relatively well. BB&T Corp's stock closed up 37.5 cents on Wednesday, at $29.875.
John B. Moore, an analyst at Wachovia Securities Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., said BB&T is trading at a higher multiple than any of its peers that he follows, which in turn allows BB&T to keep buying.
"BB&T is taking advantage of the investment community's high regard of the company, as they should," he said. "They have not stumbled in their dealmaking, which is an anomaly in today's world."
BB&T's strategy to go after smaller targets - many of its deals are for banks with less than $1 billion of assets - has helped it succeed, Mr. Moore added.
"While many of their competitors have done massive mergers, they are taking baby steps," Mr. Moore said. "BB&T is making smaller deals, and in doing so, keeping more control over the process."
Mr. Warren would not rule out further deals in Georgia. He said that with year-2000 computer issues behind it, the company will have more resources to devote to merger integrations next year than it did this year.
Not that year-2000 concerns slowed it down much. BB&T has closed 45 bank deals in the last 10 years and 13 since 1998. In addition to the Georgia acquisitions, it announced deals to buy banks in West Virginia and Maryland this year and bought several insurance companies.
Mr. Warren added that because the target companies are smaller, they often do not offer as many products as his bank. For that reason, BB&T can quickly add new products and increase revenues after a merger closes. For example, it plans to offer First Banking customers insurance, mutual funds, investment banking services, and leasing.
"Our goal in these acquisitions is to grow revenues by driving more products through the banks we buy," Mr. Warren said.
Terms of this deal, which is valued at 2.26 times First Banking's book value and about 16 times next year's earnings, call for BB&T to exchange 0.74 shares of its common stock for each First Banking share in a tax-free pooling of interests.
BB&T also said it expects to eliminate 25% of First Banking's expenses.