First Bancshares fills key gap in its Gulf Coast expansion effort

Register now

First Bancshares in Hattiesburg, Miss., has agreed to buy First Florida Bancorp in Destin for $85 million in cash and stock.

The $3.5 billion-asset First Bancshares said that the transaction advances its effort to build a banking operation across the Gulf Coast. It already had branches in Pensacola and Tallahassee, which are on either side of First Florida's service area.

"Our partnership with First Florida will substantially improve our market share in Florida and further our strategic vision of building a high-performing regional community bank," Hoppy Cole, First Bancshares' president and CEO, said in a press release.

The deal is the fifth for First Bancshares since early 2018. The company bought FPB Financial in Hammond, La., in March.

The $451 million-asset First Florida has six branches and a loan production office in Destin, Fort Walton, Crestview and Panama City. First Bancshares said those communities are home to many aviation, aerospace, defense, hospitality and tourism businesses. Several U.S. military installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, are there. More than 1,400 military members move into the Fort Walton metropolitan statistical area after their service ends each year, the company said.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. The combined company would have $4 billion in assets, $3.2 billion in deposits and $2.6 billion in loans. It would also have 78 branches in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Janney Montgomery Scott and Alston & Bird advised First Bancshares. Hovde Group and Jones Day advised First Florida.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.