Carolina Trust Bank in Lincolntown, N.C., has a deal to buy Carolina Commerce Bank in Gastonia, N.C., for $5.5 million in stock.

J. Michael Cline, Carolina Trust's president and chief executive officer, said buying the $104 million-asset Carolina Commerce would take his company into the growing Gaston County market. “We believe our entry into this market, with its proximity to the Charlotte metropolitan region, will result in increased value to our shareholders,” Cline said in a press release issued late Wednesday.

Carolina Commerce, which opened in 2004, has one branch, $85.6 million in deposits and $75.1 million in loans.

It would be merged into the $172 million-asset Carolina Trust, which has five branches in Lincoln and Catawba counties and a loan production office in Rutherford County.

The deal calls for each share of Carolina Commerce to be exchanged for 0.6250 shares of Carolina Trust. In addition, each outstanding option to purchase Carolina Commerce stock would become an option to purchase 0.6250 shares of Carolina Trust.

Though the deal price will fluctuate along with the stock values, the exchange works out to $4.47 a share for now, based on a five-day average closing price for Carolina Trust's stock as of Tuesday, the two banks said.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

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