GULFPORT, Miss.-- Hancock Bank of Louisiana and Washington Bank and Trust Co. of Franklinton, La., said they would merge in a deal valued at $15 million.

Washington Bancorp shareholders will receive Hancock Holding Co. common stock qualifying as a tax-free pooling of interest.

The plan was approved by the boards of directors of both companies. The merger is subject to approval by Washington Bancorp shareholders and appropriate regulatory agencies. Completion is expected by yearend.

Washington Bank and Trust operates six offices and has $88.5 million of assets. After the merger the bank will continue to operate under the name Washington Bank.

Through its banks in Mississippi and Louisiana, Hancock Holding 6 Co. operates 58 banking offices and 86 automated teller machines.

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