BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — SouthTrust Corp. announced Friday that it will buy Norfolk, Va.-based Cenit Bancorp in a stock deal valued at about $117 million.

The purchase would mark SouthTrust’s entry into the Virginia retail banking market. Cenit has about $665 million of assets and 20 offices in the areas of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, one of the Southeast‘s fastest-growing markets. The company has about 275 employees.

SouthTrust will pay 1.14 of its shares for each Cenit share, calculated after SouthTrust‘s 2-for-1 stock split on May 11. The companies said that they hope to complete the deal, which requires shareholder and regulatory approval, in the second half.

Cenit shares rose nearly 10% after the afternoon announcement, and SouthTrust shares were trading at $46.50 in afternoon trading Friday. SouthTrust spokesman David Oliver called Cenit a “top-quality bank with a great branch system” in the Norfolk area.

“It really complements our overall growth strategy. If you look at the 2000 census data, Virginia is one of a handful of states that has really outpaced the national growth average,” he said.

Virginia would be the ninth southeastern state in which SouthTrust does business. It already has loan operations in Richmond and in northern Virginia with assets of more than $500 million.

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