SouthCrest Financial Group (SCSG) in Peachtree City, Ga., has raised nearly $18 million and plans to merge its banks.

The $560 million-asset company's board has approved a plan to consolidate the charters of four banks: SouthCrest Bank, First National Bank of Polk County, Peachtree Bank and Bank of Chickamauga. The banks operate 14 branches in Georgia and Alabama.

SouthCrest expects to apply for the consolidation in the next few weeks. "We expect to completely phase in these improvements within six to 12 months after we receive the required regulatory approvals," Kenneth Maloy, SouthCrest's president and chief executive, said in press release Thursday.

SouthCrest also raised $17.5 million by selling stock to Castle Creek Capital and other institutional investors. The funds lifted the company's Tier 1 leverage ratio to 11.68% at Sept. 30, up from 8.72% at June 30.

Proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes, including the possible redemption of shares SouthCrest issued to the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The Treasury auctioned SouthCrest's shares to private investors for $13.1 million in March.

SouthCrest also announced Thursday that it lost $900,000 in the third quarter, largely because of a decision to restructure its mortgage division. Credit quality remained stable as the company decided against recording a loan-loss provision.

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