New deal shows that BancorpSouth's reg issues are a thing of the past

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BancorpSouth in Tupelo, Miss., isn't sitting idle after being freed from regulatory restrictions.

The $17.2 billion-asset company said in a press release Wednesday that it will buy the $794 million-asset Icon Capital in Houston for $145.8 million in cash and stock.

Icon has seven branches around Houston, a city BancorpSouth entered in 2014. BancorpSouth has two branches, a mortgage loan production office and a regional insurance location in the Houston area.

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to meaningfully expand our presence in the vibrant Houston ... metropolitan area," Dan Rollins, BancorpSouth's chairman and CEO, said in the release.

BancorpSouth struggled with completing its last two bank acquisitions due to regulatory snags.

The company agreed in January 2014 to buy Ouachita Bancshares in Monroe, La., and Central Community in Temple, Texas, only to withdraw its applications a few months later. The company had to deal with issues tied to Bank Secrecy Act compliance and a downgrade of its Community Reinvestment Act rating before completing those deals in January.

The Icon deal is a “welcomed shift from discussing regulatory hold-ups to discussing its growth opportunities,” Michael Rose, an Raymond James analyst, wrote in a note to clients. The latest transaction makes sense because it allows BancorpSouth to expand around Houston, Rose said, adding that opportunities also exist to offer fee-producing services to Icon's customers.

The Houston area has seen a handful of deals in recent months despite severe flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Mark Reiley, Icon's chairman and CEO, will become BancorpSouth’s Houston-area chairman. John Green, Icon's president and vice chairman, will become Houston division president.

Icon was advised by Stephens Inc. and Winstead. Alston & Bird advised BancorpSouth.

BancorpSouth also reported on Wednesday that its first-quarter profit rose by 40% from a year earlier, to $53.5 million for the first quarter, up roughly 40% from a year earlier.

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