Trio of Georgia banks plan ambitious merger

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In a rare transaction, three Georgia community banks have agreed to merge.

CCF Holding in Jonesboro, Heritage Bancorp. in Hinesville and Providence Bank in Alpharetta said in a press release Thursday that they will unite under a single holding company in all-stock transactions collectively valued at about $105 million.

When the deal closes, which should be in the third quarter, Providence and the banking units of CCF and Heritage will each operate as part of a holding company to be called Heritage Southeast Bancorp.

The deal is expected to offer shareholders the benefits of a larger, more-diversified company, including increased stock liquidity, the companies said. The new structure will also give each bank capital flexibility and a chance to offer more products and bigger loans.

The banks will keep their names, management teams and boards. The combined company would have $1.1 billion in assets, $978 million of deposits, $793 million of loans and branches in Georgia and northern Florida.

Leonard Moreland, CCF's president and CEO, will become CEO of the surviving holding company. Brian Smith, Heritage's president and CEO, will serve as president and chief operating officer, while Brad Serff, Providence's president and CEO will be an executive vice president.

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“We are very excited about the proposed business combination and the opportunities this combination will create for our companies,” Moreland said in the release. “This partnership not only creates a dynamic and diverse banking franchise to better serve the needs of our customers, but it also creates value and optionality for our shareholders.”

The holding company's board will consist of Kenneth Lehman, a former banking lawyer who has ownership stakes in several community banks; two representatives from each bank; and two independent directors. Lehman is expected to be the board's chairman.

Sandler O’Neill advised the board of each bank; it also helped the banks determine shareholders' ownership stakes in the new company. FIG Partners and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough advised CCF.

The Burke Group and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner advised Heritage. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner advised Providence, while Hovde Group provided a fairness opinion.

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