acquire Delta Bank and Trust Co. of Belle Chase, which will expand Regions' franchise in the New Orleans area. Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions agreed to purchase Delta Bank in a tax- free stock swap valued at $35 million, or 201% of Delta Bank's book value. Assuming regulatory and shareholder approvals are granted, Delta Bank will become part of Regions Bank of Louisiana, which now has $2.1 billion of assets and 43 offices around the state. Based in the southern New Orleans suburb of Belle Chase, Delta Bank has $198 million of assets and seven branches in towns lining the Mississippi River from New Orleans south to the delta: Buras, Port Sulphur, Gretna, Harahan, Harvey, Kenner, and River Ridge. "This merger will allow us to expand our presence in New Orleans and south Louisiana and to provide expanded banking services and opportunities to Delta Bank customers," said Regions Chairman and CEO J. Stanley Mackin. Investor relations spokesman Ronald C. Jackson said Regions was particularly attracted by Delta Bank's leading 78% deposit market share in Plaquemines Parish, which includes Belle Chase. He said Regions intends to continue building its market share in the New Orleans area, where it currently has 17 branches, $850 million of assets, and a 5% deposit market share. The acquisition of Delta Bank will boost Regions' deposit share in New Orleans by one percentage point. "That's been part of our strategy all along, to grow the retail bank there," Mr. Jackson said. Regions entered Louisiana in 1993 with the purchase of Secor Bank, a $1.8 billion-asset thrift that was based in Birmingham, but had most of its deposits and branches in Louisiana. Regions has subsequently purchased several community banks in Louisiana to fill out the former Secor network. Mr. Jackson said Delta Bank's branch network does not overlap with Regions' current New Orleans franchise, which is still quite small compared with the networks operated by First Commerce Corp., Hibernia Corp., and Whitney Holding Corp. But he said Regions can still accomplish enough back- room consolidation to cut Delta Bank's annual $8.5 million expense base by 10% to 15%. Mr. Jackson said the transaction would have no material effect on Regions' 1996 earnings. Delta Bank earned $1 million in the first nine months, for a 1% return on assets. Its ratio of nonperforming loans to gross loans was 1.67%, according to Sheshunoff Information Services Inc. Delta Bank president Raymond P. Markase said Regions outbid one other bank to acquire Delta Bank in an auction that originally began with seven bidders. Regions currently has $13.8 billion of assets and 286 branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Seven pending acquisitions, including Delta Bank, will add $3.8 billion of assets by the middle of next year.
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