First Bancshares Inc. in Hattiesburg, Miss., is buying seven Whitney National Bank branches in a deal that would more than double its branch network along the Gulf Coast and move it into a new market in Louisiana.

Whitney, of New Orleans, is being acquired by Hancock Holding Co. of Gulfport, Miss., and the companies were ordered by the Justice Department to sell the branches — seven in Mississippi and one in Louisiana — as a condition of their merger. That sale is set to close next month.

First Bancshares has $540 million of assets and 10 branches, all in Mississippi. In its deal for the Whitney branches, announced late Monday, First Bancshares would gain roughly $195 million of deposits and $68 million of loans.

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